I’ve been following the case that has been going on at my high school. Two students represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued the county school board for violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment under Florida’s constitution. For anyone who is not well versed in the case, here is a snippet of the results of the case from this article:
The federal judge presiding over this case agreed, and awarded the students a settlement of $1. The judge’s ruling stated that the school officials could not promote, endorse or participate in any type of prayer during or in conjunction with any activities for the school. They cannot provide any religious event planning, financing or organizing. They cannot host any school type event at a religious facility if there are other suitable options available. They also can no longer talk about their religious beliefs within the school’s classes.
Not long after this ruling, the principal of my high school disobeyed this ruling, and now faces federal contempt charges. Another snippet from another article:
On January 28, "Lay asked Freeman to offer a prayer of blessing during a school-day luncheon for the dedication of a new fieldhouse at Pace High School," according to court documents. "Freeman complied with the request and offered the prayer at the event. It appears this was a school-sponsored event attended by students, faculty and community members."
Around various sources, such as Facebook and personal weblogs, I’ve been reading a lot of viewpoints, opinions, and downright rants. Up until now, I have not commented or expressed my thoughts on the matter [with anyone other than my wife]. The reason for my lack of comment has been because everyone seems to be taking one of the following positions: They are either (1) defending the principal and verbally attacking the ACLU, or (2) they aren’t expressing an opinion. I would imagine that those who fall into position number 2 aren’t saying anything because they either don’t care that much or because any opposing viewpoint would just be met with anger or the typical southern Christian response, “you are evil if you don’t support God and prayer!” Most of the responses I have seen to all this has been along the lines of “we’re against the ACLU”, “pray for our schools”, and “prayer is the basic element”, etc. If you go to my hometown, you will see tons of road signs supporting prayer and attacking the ACLU. An example would be the principal’s support team. Their website is here.
As an alumnus of Pace High School, I can definitely say that the school is guilty of what was stated. I did witness teachers specifically asking a student to lead prayer, and I had even seen teachers leading prayers. Every year before graduation ceremonies, there was a baccalaureate held at a church that had prayer which I think was led by a preacher.
So what are my views on this whole thing? Personally, prayer in school isn’t something that bothers me. I didn’t hate it in school; I didn’t love it in school. As a student, I had always been told that as long as it is student led, that no one was doing anything illegal (that was what I was told; it isn’t actually true). However, when teachers led the prayers (and they did), I would get uncomfortable and think to myself, “Isn’t this illegal?” I wasn’t sure at the time if I should be concerned or if I should think that the teacher was being bold. Of course, it didn’t really matter to me much; I personally think that my high school experience and education were excellent, probably superior to most others. When I first heard that the ACLU was going after my high school, my first thoughts were, “Wow, it took them long enough.” Still, prayer in school isn’t an issue I’m passionate about either way. It isn’t important to me like Patent Reform or Employment Termination Reform or Energy Reform, or the other issues that I care deeply about.
To me this case isn’t about prayer or religion in public schools. No, those debates have already been decided. They were decided a long time ago, in the 1960’s. Cases such as Murray v. Curlett and Engel v. Vitale settled debates like these long before I was born. A quick look at Wikipedia states the following holdings from these cases:
Engel v. Vitale: Government-directed prayer in public schools, even if it is denominationally neutral and non-mandatory, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Murray v. Curlett: The Court decided 8-1 in favor of the respondent, Edward Schempp, and declared sanctioned organized Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional.
I really don’t like to have to quote from Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s case. She was an awful and hateful woman. I’ve actually read her son’s book, My Life Without God, by Rev. William Murray and thought it was an excellent read. That being said, I am familiar with the court holding. Anyway, back to the subject, regardless of what your thoughts on in regard to prayer in public schools, the decision has already been made, it is against the First Amendment. You may argue that it isn’t. You may read the Bill of Rights over and over again and disagree over and over again, but it doesn’t matter. You’re not on the Supreme Court, and your interpretation of the law isn’t worth anything. The judges made their interpretation and that’s that. It isn’t likely to ever change because judges look at previous decisions of the law when making new interpretations of the law. That’s how our system of government works. You may not like it. You may think it goes against God, but it doesn’t really matter what you think. The law is the law.
Now back to what I said before, this case isn’t about prayer in public schools. It is about the principal being disobedient. What?! Yeah. That’s right. My principal, the guy who always dished out all sorts of rules when I was a student, isn’t being obedient to his own authorities. My principal responded as follows:
I was not intentionally trying to violate the consent decree. It is just something you are used to doing and as they say it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
I don’t buy this explanation. I mean, this guy has been a school administrator for a very long time. You mean to tell me that he’s never heard that this stuff is illegal? I personally think he is being defiant. Maybe he’s trying to make some sort of ending legacy in his career and be some sort of religious martyr or something. I don’t know.
I’m sorry to say all this. Personally, I think that, for the most part, my high school has done great things under the principal’s leadership. However, speaking as a Christian, I cannot support him in what he is doing right now. What?! Yeah. That’s right. The principal is not obeying his government, as required in Romans 13:
KJV: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
NKJV: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
In regards to the ACLU, I do think they have an agenda. Of course they do. However, the ACLU didn’t make these decisions. They were made a long time ago. I know they are largely hated, but if you really want to be mad at someone, I guess you can be mad at the two students who tattled, if you think that’s the mature thing to do. The ACLU is just a bunch of lawyers. By the way, no one complained when the ACLU backed Rush Limbaugh, right? Wake up people. This isn’t the 1950’s! If you act like it is, you’re going to get yourselves into trouble.
So, there you go. That’s my take on all this. Everybody have fun. Try not to commit any felonies.