Friday, August 26, 2011

Prayer at the game?

Separation of church and state. As every good American knows, our Constitution guarantees that government institutions will not impose any religion on its citizens.

However, in Hernando, MS, the Constitution has been laid aside by some parents. After the DeSoto County School Board enforced the separation of church and state by refusing to allow the use of public school property to lead prayers at a football game, some Christian parents were outraged. They seem to believe that prayer is banned completely, although paradoxically they are going to lead a prayer group at the game.

One such parent, Mike Coker, claims, "Our rights are slowly getting ripped away by Congress, by our government and it's being done silently." I would like to know exactly what rights he feels are being ripped from him. No one has actually banned people from praying. What was banned was the use of public school resources and support for prayer, exactly how it should be according to the laws of our nation.

From the article:
"Parents said they understand that the Supreme Court has ruled school-led prayer is against the Constitution.  They hope if they are loud enough, that could change."
Really? What exactly do they think should happen? Should the Supreme Court reinterpret the Constitution just because you yell really loud about it? Or do they think the Constitution needs to be changed?

Here is the exact passage from the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
Although public school is not the Congress itself, the Congress does ultimately make the laws governing public education. Leading prayer in schools is therefore something that the Congress is required to disallow. Note that they are not stopping people from praying at all, which would violate the First Amendment as well. I see no way in which the amendment could be interpreted as requiring the school to make available resources for prayer.

I suppose they could try to amend the Constitution. Realistically, I doubt they could do it. Both religious and non-religious people value their right to pray or not as they see fit. Also, no one would be able to agree on what constitutes an appropriate prayer. Even among Christians, there are different sects with different interpretations of the Bible.

As an atheist, a group prayer at the school's football game does bother me. Obviously, no one likes to be excluded. Atheists are excluded from prayer by its definition. Although the organizers of the prayer at Hernando High School claim "everyone is invited so they do not feel they are being left out of the prayer," it is blatantly false for all who do not believe. To be honest, I don't know if I would want to be included anyway, but the fact is that people are definitely being excluded. (And isn't lying a sin in most religions?)

The other reason I take offense is intimately tied with the nature of life. For myself and other atheists, this life is our only life. Every moment of it is precious. To ask us to waste valuable moments of our life waiting for you pray to what we consider to be your imaginary friend is just plain rude. I have no problem with you spending as much or as little time in prayer as you wish, but please do not expect me to sit and twiddle my thumbs waiting for you. Religious people believe they have eternity, so they should be the ones willing to wait. My life means more than that; show some respect for our beliefs, as well.

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