-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Paul Ryan, Republican nominee for Vice President, said he believes that states should have the right to determine if prayer in public schools is allowed. In response to a question from a campaign volunteer, Ryan said that’s “a constitutional issue of the states.” Prayer in public schools is a hot-button issue for religious conservatives. Was Ryan simply pandering to the Republican base or does he truly not support the separation of church and state?
While any student can silently pray during school, that’s not the kind of prayer that the religious right is talking about. They want the kind of prayer that is foisted upon young minds by school authority figures. Those in the classroom are a captive audience, compelled by law to attend.
In the case of Engel v. Vitale (1962), the Supreme Court found that a New York state law, directing a School District’s principal to cause a prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher, was “wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause.” The Court noted that the First Amendment was “made applicable to the State of New York by the Fourteenth Amendment of the said Constitution.”
Ryan goes on to say that the decision to say a prayer is the “moral responsibility of parents.” However, a government sponsored prayer violates the very parental responsibility he claims to support. The decision not to say a prayer is also the responsibility of parents. A child should neither be pressured to pray nor pressured not to pray. Religious parents would scream bloody murder if their child was pressured not to pray, but these same parents have no qualms when pressuring other children to pray.
Government sponsored prayer in public schools is a blatant attempt to refresh and reinforce religious beliefs of the children of religious parents and indoctrinate the children of parents who have different beliefs.