Mississippi politicians have long allowed their state to rest at the bottom of state in educational quality. Now they have finally decided to act: a new bill would legalize school prayer so children will presumably be able to pray for a day when politicians in the state will actually support public education.
The Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberties Act would legalize school prayer and Republican Rep. Mark Formby apparently believes that this is the most pressing concern for legislators. After all, with a subpar educational system, the kids need to pray for a miracle in getting a job.
Formby has a remarkably liberated view of any limitations imposed by the separation of church and state: “I’m not so much worried about what’s allowed as what’s disallowed. I keep having parents come to me and complain.” Just in case he develops a tad of “worry,” he might want to glance at Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), where the United States Supreme Court found an official school prayer to be unconstitutional. Then in Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985), the Court struck down one minute for prayer or meditation.
There is no law needed to allow students to prayer silently of course. These laws generally reflect a continuing desire to establish an official time or opportunity for prayer. Recently the same type of legislation was struck down in Mississippi but that does not stop further efforts fueled by politics and “a hope and a prayer.” Of course, the inevitable challenge will burn money in litigation that could be spent to actually improve Mississippi schools. Now that is something worth praying for.