Is prayer in school legal or morally acceptable? Students, parents

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Is prayer in school legal or morally acceptable? Students, parents and school officials have debated the issue of school prayer for several years. Since the case of Engel v. Vitale, in which Steven Engel of New York led a class action suit that went all the way to the supreme court and eventually ended in the banning of prayer in schools (pray 1). Everyone has the right to freedom of speech and self-expression, therefore everyone has the right to pray. Because one student and his or her parents aren't believers or just do not wish to pray doesn't mean that everyone should have to suffer. People who oppose prayer in school fear that it will violate the separation of church and state and lead to religious persecution. They also worry that young children who are very impressionable will be influenced to a certain religion. The anxieties aren't unfounded, but they also aren't enough reason to take something as important as religion away from our children in public schools.

The first amendment states; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…(Bill of Rights 1971). This single phrase, a mere sixteen words, has stirred up much controversy in our public school system because everyone wants to interpret it differently (positive 1). Taken at face value the amendment says, you can't have a law that respects the establishment of religion and it states that your freedom of speech cannot be abridged, this leaves one to wonder why the issue of school prayer is under debate. Former president Bill Clinton states that nothing in the first amendment converts our schools into religious-free zones or requires all religious expression to be left at the school house door (Van Biena 4). Everyone has the first amendment right to religion and to express at school or any other place.

Pastor John W. Sonnenday, of the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, stresses that, "life is holistic. Spirituality is a part of human life." He advocates that, "It's the job of the faith communities and the families to shape young peoples religious attitudes and values." But pastor Sonnenday feels that if a school and its student body are willing, they stand much to gain with prayer in school (positive 1).

There is so much more violence and teen pregnancy's than there were before prayer was ousted from school premises. Students who once might have turned to God as an escape from their problems now turn to violence, some going as far as to kill their fellow students. God is the last thing that should be removed from our public schools.

Parents fearing that their children will be singled out and abused for not accepting the fact that they are supposed to pray in school have been bringing cases to the courts for years. Because of the law of majority rules, they shouldn't be able to have prayer removed from school because for every one student that doesn't want to pray there are several more that do. Some opponents say that schools are supported by all taxpayers, and therefore should be free of all-religious observances and coercion (case 1). If this is true than it could go just as well the other way because all people pay taxes to run schools, the supporters of school prayer might argue that there should be prayer in school to be fair.

The opposition in a desperate attempt to turn people against school prayer states that Jesus himself doesn't want prayer in school (5). They take bible versus out of context and twist them around to make it look like Jesus doesn't want prayer in school. Though most every true Christian knows that Jesus isn't against prayer or he wouldn't have prayed so hard in the garden before he had to die to save us from our sins. If Jesus himself believed in prayer so much that he himself said one before the night he was to die, than we know that he wants us to pray for our sins and for the sake of others as well.

One student wrote a poem about just how bad our schools have become. "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 every time my head I bow, becomes a federal matter now (students 1)." Students feeling like they do not have the right to pray is very sad, because they aren't receiving all their freedoms as American citizens.

Prayer in schools is mandatory, as Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina states; "If we really care about cleaning up the streets and the classrooms, if we really care about the survival of our nation, is their anything more important for the senators to protect than the right of America's children to participate in voluntary, constitutionally protected prayer in school." We need to have prayer in school to help make a better tomorrow for our youth.