In the United States, there is a daily constant battle going on between the ability to pray in public or not. For the supporters of public prayer, the constitution supports their freedom of religion to be able to uplift prayers whenever they wish. For the ones who oppose public prayer, the constitution states the separation of church and state. The United States has had a moral decline since prayers were taken out of our schools. Prayers in school should be allowed to help train our youth to follow the path of righteous living.
America’s moral decline rapidly increased following the U.S. Supreme Court’s removal of prayer from our nation’s schools. On June 25, 1962, 39 million students were forbidden to publically call upon the name of the Lord at the beginning of each school day. This had been allowed since the founding of our nation.
The school children who had prompted this ruling had prayed: almighty God, we recognize our dependence on Thee and ask Thy blessing on us, our parents, our teachers, and our nations.”
America has undergone severe decline in the four areas which the children’s prayer mentioned: youth, family, education, and national life. In 1980 the election of President Reagan led to a renewed emphasis on “traditional” values. This has led only to a slight recovery.
The third commandment demands us “not to take the name of the Lord in vain.” Therefore, removing prayer from schools was a violation of this commandment. When the Court forbid invocation, they raised a system of education beyond the authority, reach and blessing of God. They treated the Lord’s name with contempt, denied it rightful place and stripped it from public use and children’s vocabulary. Many of these judges had been raised in Christian homes.
The U.S. Supreme Court violated the third commandment in 1961 which initiated the way for removing the Lord’s name from children’s language. The court overruled a provision of the Maryland Constitution which made “a declaration of belief in the existence of God” compulsary for holding public office. This case was Torcaso vs. Watkins. Torcaso, an atheist, was refused a notary public commission because he would not quote the required oath. The court ruled to uphold atheism and overruled the Maryland Constitution.
On this 1961 ruling, Columnist Felix Morley pointed out “the absurdity of having an official administer to others oaths in the sanctity of which he does not himself believe.”
The effect of this ruling has two purposes: to eliminate the sacredness of the name of God and the substance of the oath itself. By removing these solemn oaths and binding contracts between individuals, the state sits where God should, and only the state’s cause is held valid. The state controls all affairs of life rather than individual control
There are many individuals in the country who have been active in the movement to remove prayer or any concept of God from all aspects of life. One of those people is named Madelyn Murray. She tried to obliterate the concept of God and Christianity. Murray despised religion and burst onto the national stage in the early 1960’s with a lawsuit she filed against a public school for religious exercises in Baltimore, Maryland. She believed religion didn’t belong in public education because she said children needed to be able to work on problems encountered on earth, not get ready for heaven.
The Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale (1962) was the landmark case that struck down school prayer as a violation of the “establishment” clause of the First Amendment. Many people want to use the argument that prayer cannot be allowed because it is a violation of Church and State. But what about the rights of the people who believe in God and their constitutional rights of Freedom of Religion?
The arguement from those who oppose school prayer is the Establishment clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment reads as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Many people twist and turn the wording of that amendment to help support their own cause. However, it seems that religious prayers are acceptable in this country if it is a Muslim prayer to their god. However, Bible believing Christians are not allowed the same rights and freedoms.
After the cases Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), state-sponsored prayer in schools were prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court. After these cases were ruled on by the justices, another monumental case known as the Lemon v. Kurtzman was heard by the court, which established the Lemon Test for such activities held within state-sponsored schools.
This Lemon Test provides three criteria for schools to adhere to for any practice to be constitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The three criteria are: 1) have a secular purpose; 2) Must neither advance or inhibit religion; and 3) must not result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion. Students may be allowed to pray in schools in the U.S. as long as it is not officially sponsored by the school and doesn’t disrupt others from work. Several students have started having prayer events before and after school after this ruling, such as “gather around the pole”.
There is an inspirational role model for the youth and even adults to look up to for staying true to his beliefs. Tim Tebow, former Florida Gators quarterback and current quarterback for the New York Jets in the NFL, has been a promoter for the Freedom of Religious Rights and an encouragement to all who believe in God and prayer to stand up for what you believe. Tebow has consistently demonstrated his religious devotion in his college and pro-football career.
Tim Tebow is known for his showing Muscular Christianity by sharing his Christian faith and beliefs with fans and in clinics, hospitals, market places, schools, and orphanages. He frequently wore references to biblical verses on his eye black during his college football career. He wore John 3:16 on his eye black for the 2009 BCS Championship game. He also would kneel in prayer on the field after a touchdown. His devotion has led many others to follow in his footsteps. However, the NCAA banned messages on eye paint in 2010 in a new rule named the “Tebow Rule” which goes to prove there are groups always there trying to stop religious freedom.
There were two Riverhead High School football players that were suspended for a day because of leading other students to kneel in prayer in a re-enactment of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s kneeling in prayer. The school officials claim they suspended the students because they created a potentially dangerous situation by encouraging this action. The Superintendent of the school said the suspensions had nothing to do with the religious nature of the gesture. Most people of faith know this is about the fight about religious freedom of individuals.
It is a sad day in America when it is alright for one group to be given freedom to worship their chosen god, but Christian believing youth and adults are not given the same rights, even suspended from their school or loss of a job for expressing their religious rights. There have been several instances across the United States with students following Tebow’s demonstration of faith by re-enactment of kneeling in prayer called “Tebowing.” Many of these students have experienced their individual religious rights infringed upon by being suspended for their actions.
Students are supposed to have the right to participate in prayer activities if it is student led, not sponsored by state-sponsored institutions. However, a student giving a speech for a High School Graduation is not allowed to lead a prayer in the program even if it is of their own accord and not promoted by the school without fear of being expelled or not receiving their diplomas. However, this country is supposed to allow the people religious freedom?
The decline in the moral fiber that made this country such a great place to live has continued to worsen ever since school prayer was taken out of our schools. Since school prayer has been taken out of the schools, the students in our school doesn’t have the one thing that helps to encourage them for following the rules of righteous living. Since school prayer has been taken out of school, there has been a large increase of violence in the schools, such as school shootings, increase in bullying, inappropriate relations with faculty and students, and the list goes on and on. It all can be traced back to the removal of prayer in the schools.
After more than 25 years of severe moral decline, we need to repent, respect the name of the Lord, reinstate and abide by the third commandment. If the United States would turn around from this path that started back in 1962, there may be less school shootings, less bullying, more caring about each other, and a better environment to raise our children.
1 David Barton, America: To Pray or Not to Pray, (Aledo, TX:
Specialty Research Associates).
2 Oswald Chambers, The Best from All His Books, (Oliver Nelson Books, 1987).
3 Dierenfield, B.J. (2007). “The Most Hated Woman in America”: Madalyn Murray and the Crusade against School Prayer. Journal of Supreme Court History.