Once again, I have received an email suggesting that the country will be "fixed" if only we have prayer in schools.
When I was in grade school, we had to line up by the door for dismissal. On the wall, right beside the door, were the Ten Commandments. At my 50 year reunion, I did not see that any of my classmates was better or worse from having seen or read them on the wall every day.
Whose prayer should be offered in public schools? Many public schools, even in North Dakota, have students from all over the world. Fargo has kids from about 80 different countries enrolled in school. Consequently, religions from all over the world are represented in the classrooms.
Which prayers would be acceptable? Saying the rosary? A Tibetan Prayer wheel? Native American prayers, with peyote or cleansing sage? Hindu prayers to multiple gods? Buddhist prayers? Muslim prayers, five times a day while facing east? Sunni or Shiite? There are several Jewish sects, so which kind of Jewish prayers? Some religions require male and female to be separate. Some demand worshipers have cetain hair styles, shawls, head coverings, or clothing. Some prostrate themselves, others sit in meditation. Some handle snakes. Some religions regard Friday or Saturday as the holy day; others worship on Sunday. If we people cannot agree on which day is holy, can we ever agree on to whom to offer prayers?
It is apparent that those who have sent the emails expect the prayers in schools to be Christian. Apparently, they are not aware that some Christian kids are not allowed to participate in public prayer. When I graduated from high school, my best friend was told she should not attend Baccalaurete exercises as she should not participate in prayers with people who were not of her denomination. She attended the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church. When she got married, she asked two Catholic girls and a Methodist to be bridesmaids. Her pastor scolded her and told her to ask a girl from her church to be her bridesmaid. On the other side of that, the priest told both Catholic girls they could not participate in the Lutheran service. One obeyed him and the other participated in the wedding.
Our neighbors in Mandan drove to Bismarck to attend the Missouri Synod Church, as they would not attend the Wisconsin Synod. Both were Lutheran. In this town there are five Lutheran Churches---do they all agree?
When my husband taught music, he had a student whose father was a pastor and would not allow him to sing in the Chirstmas Concert. The teenage boy was in tears. And at concert time, he showed up and sang. His parents did not attend the concert, and we do not know what happened at home. Jehovah's witness children also do not participate in Christmas programs.
There are many denominations, and many sub-categories of Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and many, many others with which I am not familiar. Some are liberal, some strict in their beliefs, style of services, and acceptable prayers.
My students, most of whom were older teens, used to laugh at the entire debate. They would chuckle and say, "We have prayer in schools....every time there is a test!"
The fact is, you cannot force someone to pray, nor not pray. They may bow their heads or fold their hands, but prayer is a state of mind or heart. It is within and not forced from outside. Personally, I like the advice from Matthew 6:5 "When you pray, go into your closet and shut the door."