14 Comments

How do you feel about School Prayer?

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Please answer the poll question before you continue on to the rest of the post.

Over the past week, I’ve had conversations with people that said they support school prayer. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I think the devil is in the details. How will this be administered? If you support school prayer, would you support it if it was a Muslim prayer, a Hindu prayer, a Scientology prayer? Would the prayer be at the beginning of the day, or in each class? Would it simply be a moment of silence in which the student could either silently meditate, pray, or do something else quietly?

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14 comments on “How do you feel about School Prayer?

  1. I don’t know a single person who has been prevented from praying at school. As they like to say, “As long as there are final exams there will be prayers in school.” I don’t think there are ANY good arguments for structured prayers imposed on students from teachers or administration.

  2. Your choices really set out the difficulty of school prayer. Where do you draw the line? Scientology? Yuk. Wiccan prayer? Equal yuk. Assuming, of course, you’re talking about school-sponsored prayer. It can’t be done in a way that would not be offensive to someone, so let prayer be private and personal. We’re all free to pray wherever and whenever we choose. Isn’t that enough?

  3. I can’t answer the question as written. I’m fine with voluntary individual prayer at any time when the student is not expected to be engaged in educational activities. I’m not okay with state-sponsored or required prayer in any context.

    “We do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion.” Doctrine and Covenants 134:4

  4. For Christianity and religious that don’t have traditionally scheduled prayers, it’s easy: No officially-led prayers in public or charter school ever for any reason, period. I don’t think anybody against school prayer cares if individual students pray in non-disruptive ways, so I don’t think concerns about that are justified. For a religion like Islam it’s trickier: is it appropriate to set aside time or a room for daily prayers if you’re in a predominantly Muslim district? If yes is it okay to set aside time for Christian kids to pray too? My inclination is to say no to all of it, but then I’m not comfortable with Utah’s release time for seminary either…but at some level maybe it’s better to grant special privileges to the dominant religion as long as it’s not mandatory. So, yeah, prayer itself isn’t so hard but a lot of related issues are.

  5. There is a lady in my ward that is apparently a big proponent of school prayer, so much so that she is against public schools. She thinks all kids should attend private schools (and there is a private Mormon school the next town over.)

    I just don’t get it. I never attended BYU, but I have been to certain events there that begin and end with a prayer. A high school acquaintence of mine taught in the Davis County schools, and then was asked to teach a statistics class at BYU. She said that she doesn’t start her class with a prayer, which is apparently customary at BYU. From what I understand, most classes at BYU start with a prayer (and some end with a prayer.) Since I went to state schools here in Utah, it just seems incredibly strange to me to start a math class (or any non-religious class) with a prayer.

    I haven’t spoken with the woman in my ward about this, so I don’t know her reaction. But the guy I spoke to is really into politics, and I think he is a republican delegate. The woman in my ward is more of a libertarian republican, so I’m a bit surprised that she has such strong feelings about wanting prayer in public schools. My first question was, “well would she support a muslim or hindu prayer in school?” My guess is that she would be against that, and that she is primarily wanting Mormon prayers. I suppose she would prefer prayers in “the predominant” religion in the Midwest. When you hear people like Mike Huckabee talk about prayer in school, what exactly are they talking about?

    When I was on my mission, we went to a high school football game in South Carolina. (We thought it would be a good way to get visibility, and nobody was home on a Friday night anyway, so we thought it might be a good way to meet people.) I was pretty astonished when they had a pastor give a prayer over the loudspeaker before the football game. I’d never seen such a thing done in Utah. I just wondered if these good southern Baptists would object to have a Muslim prayer before the game. I think they would.

    So, if we’re not going to represent many religions in prayer, why should we have prayer in public schools? And if we did, would it be like the football game I attended where a local pastor gave it? Would it be like BYU where a student prays before class? Would it be a moment of silence? I’ve never heard a proponent of school prayer prescribe what they mean by “I support school prayer.”

    If you know anyone that supports school prayer, please send them here to answer my questions.

  6. Things may have changed since I went to BYU (1977-1986, with time out for a mission), but when I was there, prayers were offered almost exclusively in religion classes. I took a philosophy class from Truman Madsen that began with prayer, and I audited a Spanish class that began with prayer in Spanish–more for pedagogical than devotional reasons, I think. With those two exceptions, I can’t think of a class outside the Religion Department where prayers were offered.

  7. I have a friend that works at BYU-Idaho. He says that every math class begins and ends with a prayer, and he finds it strange….

  8. For me at BYU it was maybe one class in four that started with a prayer (graduated ’10). Mostly Religion, and a few others here and there. Seems to be entirely up to the professor, and the cynic in me wonders if some do it to fulfill the “This class strengthened my testimony” part of student evaluations.

  9. This post actually made me curious about Muslims praying in schools, so I sent an email to a friend of mine who was very active in the Muslim student community at my school (now he is in a medical residency to be a doctor). Here is our exchange:

    Me: Hey, are there Muslim students in America who do their daily prayers in schools (like K-12)? Do they have trouble doing so, or are people generally understanding?

    Him: there definitely are! Most of the time its not too big of an issue. Almost always if it becomes an issue, someone from the mosque or parents can write a letter and then it’s fine. I remember when I was at [high school name omitted], we used to use a small room in the library (I think it might have been the librarian’s lounge) to go pray. Most of the time I had enough time during lunch or study hall or something to go down there and pray real quick!

    Me: Are there rules for flexing the times, or do you have to do it exactly at the right time? Like maybe you could do it slightly earlier/later and it’s still acceptable?

    Him: so there are daily time ranges for each prayer. as long as the prayer is done within those times it its complete. now often times prayers are missed due to requirements that can’t be skipped (i.e. for me in the hospital I can’t leave a patient emergency). thankfully the wide time range allows for some flexibility on how long I have to pray, and if I miss my prayer, I cna make it up later. Ideally missing my prayer is my last option, but our faith is meant ot complement how we live our life. Therefore, instead of stringent small windows there are large time periods we have to both do our regular worldly duties and fullfill our duty to God as well

  10. I think based on that, in my neck of the woods Muslims do not feel necessarily that they are prevented from praying in schools. The setup my friend described seems like a pretty ideal compromise.

  11. I have taught in Catholic and independent christian schools in Oz and most of them have a prayer at the beginning and end of the day. In Oz they are also starting to include indigenous Australian Ceremonies during the weekly school parade. which is the local indigenous elder saying a prayer.

    Is there anything similar in American schools. An acknowledgement of Native American rights.

  12. Syphax, that was an interesting exchange. Thanks for sharing. I’d just like to know what proponents of school prayer want that we don’t have now.

    Astral_LDS, there used to be an Indian Placement program in connection with the LDS Church, but it was fazed out. I remember an Indian school up near Ogden, but it closed due to low enrollment and lack of interest by the American Indians. I don’t think we have anything similar.

    The Indian Reservations are semi-autonomous nations within the United States. Here in Utah, one of the Indian Tribes wants to use their tribal land to store nuclear waste. On the one hand, the tribe would receive a tremendous amount of money. On the other hand, Utahns have long been exposed to radiation due to the atomic testing in Nevada in the 1940s and 50s, so Utahns want no part of nuclear waste anywhere near our state borders. There is a big legal wrangle over the issue of nuclear waste, and I have no idea how it will turn out. But count me as one who doesn’t want Utah to be a toxic waste dump.

  13. I don’t think we can successfully legislate against personal private prayer.

    But public prayer in schools? No, for all the complications you cite.

    I suspect Huck wants his version of Christian prayer and no other.

    My sister (years ago) was asked to give the blessing on the food at a school club event. The teacher asked her to submit her prayer in writing prior to the event (so it could be sanitized?). My sister found it too weird and asked the teacher to ask someone else to do it.

    I do favor a moment of silence in the morning. We did that in my high school and it was unoffensive.

    My daughter (now on a mission but was recently at BYU) indicated most classes there now have prayer at the beginning of class. We did not do that in any class that I remember when I was there in the early 80’s, but (as my kids will tell you) I’m old and may have forgotten…

  14. I am not for or against every day school prayers. Yet, I also think that “a moment of silence” is a mockery of public prayer. I don’t like it at any function. It feels too much like heads up-7 up. You openly have a prayer or you don’t. Private prayers are for private homes. I wonder if a Christian would be given the same latitude as the Muslim in the above letter, but my guess is they wouldn’t.

    What I am against is not allowing payers at events like sports games and graduations, especially when its a tradition. Catholic and Protestant prayers never bothered me, and I can’t imagine non-Christian payers would be offensive assuming they are equally as minimalist as I have heard. Just to be supportive, I don’t care if there was an “atheist” prayer that talked about hope for the future or something. So long as “religious sentiments” are not treated like a public disease like they are now.

    I don’t know where this prayer in every classroom at BYU came from. I graduated from both Ricks College (before it became the four year) and BYU, and I can’t remember starting prayer in ANY of my non-religious classes. My wife said that besides the religion classes, she only had a math class that started with prayer. The very idea seems way too repetitive and inappropriate.

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