I recently received an email with an “inspired” poem about prayer in public schools. I’ve included it in its entirety at the bottom of this post. It claims to be written by a 15 year old in Minnesota. I looked on a few fact checking websites and it is not clear if a teenager wrote it. It has also circulated with different places of origin. The author and source maybe unclear but it is clear that the facts represented in the body of the poem are inaccurate.
It suggests that guns have been outlawed and that quoting the Bible could be considered ‘libel.’ Of course, neither of these statements are true. This loose relationship to the truth makes me suspicious about the claims about the author being a 15 year old.
The poem is written from the perspective of a victim. It implies that schools may no longer ‘teach right from wrong.’ It says that chaos has taken over in schools and the implication is that this is because of a lack of prayer and God’s word.
Our two children went through public school and there was no chaos. The schools did a good job of fostering a respect for all people and not tolerating acts of violence or disrespect. My daughter is now a middle school teacher and my wife teaches in a community college. I hear first hand about the many problems faced by teachers in schools. They have to do with issues of neglected children, addictions and abuse in families. Their students come from many different situations that range from affluenza to homelessness. I’m not sure allowing a public prayer in the morning would change those issues.
The First Amendment to the Constitution, written by James Madison, says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In the past, our court system has ruled that having everyone in class say a common prayer was the govt. ‘establishing a religion.’ Of course, they could not and did not prohibit personal prayer.
I want to contemplate what it would look like if we reintroduced public prayers and scripture reading in school.
If we were to bring public prayers back into school, which divinity would we pray to? Jesus? Allah? The Great Spirit of Native American religion? Buddha (Technically not a divinity.) Would you read from the Quran, The Torah, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The I Ching of Taoism, The Divine Principle by Rev. Moon? I could see a system that tried to rotate between all sacred scriptures. It would be up to school boards to determine which sacred text had value. Or maybe they would declare them all to be worthwhile. Yet, if schools were to present all scriptures as equal, I would argue that would be creating a Theology of Syncretism. That would imply that all sacred texts are equally valuable. If we did that then I would object the government was creating a new religion.
Also, how would we respect the estimated 7% of the students who are Atheist or Agnostic? Would we give them equal time to explain to other children why they don’t think God exists?
I’m not trying to be difficult, I genuinely want to know how you would word such a prayer. I’ve been asked to pray at inter-faith events before and it is possible and meaningful, yet, it would be even harder if everyone in the group wasn’t theistic. It would be impossible if some of the group were adamantly a-theistic.
If you know of a prayer that that meets those criteria please send me the text. It would be interesting to use it for sermon material.
The Lord’s Prayer
By a 15-year-old school kid who got an A+ for this entry
The Lord’s Prayer is not allowed in most U.S. Public schools any more. A kid in Minnesota, wrote the following:
NEW School Prayer
Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.
If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God’s name is prohibited by the State..
We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the ‘unwed daddy,’ our Senior King.
It’s ‘inappropriate’ to teach right from wrong,
We’re taught that such ‘judgments’ do not belong.
We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It’s scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!
If you aren’t ashamed to do this, Please pass this on.
Jesus said, ‘If you are ashamed of me,
I will be ashamed of you before my Father.’
Not ashamed. Passing it on!