According to Bennett & Foldesy (2008),
“Accommodating the right of religious speech of one citizen while not violating the right of another to be free from religious coercion in public schools in our nation continues to be a problem of spirited debate” (Bennett & Foldesy, 2008, p.185). Prayer in schools is an issue that has been debated for years. Some people agree that Prayer should be in public schools and many others agree that Prayer should be prohibited in schools. Prayer at the beginning of each school day is mandatory in many of the American schools, including private and public.
Some sociologists are psychologists of the view that Prayer helps students to strengthen their belief in morals, values, and good citizenship. Such people argue that morality and ethics are rapidly diminishing in this world at present, and hence aggressive behaviours and violence are increasing. On the other hand, critics of the school prayer view that enforcement of Prayer at schools may affect the autonomy of the children. Beliefs, traditions, and customs can not, in their opinion, be imposed on school children. This paper argues for school prayer after analyzing both sides of the issue.
Pros and Cons of School Prayer
Religion is an integral part of American heritage. For example, “Prayer is permitted in Congress. Our currency contains the motto “In God We Trust.” The President is sworn into office with the oath, “so help me God.” God is mentioned four times in the Freedom Declaration “(Debate 6-Prayer in Public Schools, n.d.). At present, religion is losing ground in America for various reasons, which is why violence and aggression among school children are growing. It is necessary to cultivate values and morals in the minds of the younger generation to construct a healthy future American society.
“We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that God endows them with certain unalienable Rights,” the Declaration of Independence says. Credit for the rights that Americans hold dear is given to God, the Creator, by the founding fathers of this Nation” (Declaration of independence, 1995). The above declaration of independence underlines the importance of religion in American political and social lives. In other words, the American government was built on Christian principles, and therefore it is logical to administer Prayer in all public institutions like schools. The Declaration of Independence is a statement of how this country operated in the past and how it should be operated in the future. In other words, America’s government began under these beliefs, and it is suicidal to forget about such traditions and heritage.
The first amendment guarantees personal freedoms under the law if you are a U.S. citizen. Still, the Supreme Court ruling forbidding Prayer in public schools has restricted the majority of American citizens from being able to pray, read the Bible, sing religious songs, and make any kind of reference to religion in public schools (Bill of rights, n. d.).
Supreme Court seems to be misreading the facts. It is a deliberate attempt by the Supreme Court to isolate religion from American political and social lives. It is a fact that over interference of religion in politics is not suitable for the growth prospects, a country like America. It should be noted that America is a secular democratic country where all people have the right to believe in their Gods and spread their beliefs. Supreme Court thinks that Prayer in Christian prayer in schools could be harmful to America’s secularism. This brings about an important question, why are the governing bodies of this country allowed to pray every day, but public schools are prohibited? The first amendment of American Bill of rights says that;
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. “The first clause specifies that a national state church can not be created by the federal government. It has proven that religion has played an essential part in the government’s work in this country. It has been seen when every session of Congress opens with a prayer (Bill of rights, n.d.)
All the public governing bodies start their functions after a Christian prayer every day. Under such circumstances, it is illogical to prohibit Prayer in American public schools. Prayer in public schools should be put back in because of America’s founding principles, morals, and first amendment rights. The council that is in charge, for example, the President, Senate, House of Representatives, or state officials, need to re-evaluate Prayer in school. They can look upon the fact that as long as the belief is not forced on a student or person, the practice of faith and morality can be inspired by Prayer.
Jasmine & Young-Joon (2011) pointed out that “students who often pray can turn a stressful situation into a positive one” (Jasmine & Young-Joon, 2011, p.26). Nobody knows where they come and where they go after death. Under such circumstances, belief in God could be a logical decision. Bible says that faith in God is the beginning of wisdom. Even after considerable advancements in science and technology, we are still unable to know what happens to us after our deaths.
Moreover, science failed to provide a clear explanation about the secrets of life and death so far. Under such circumstances, it is logical to believe in a superpower or God. If a superpower or God is there, then it is sensible to seek the blessings of HIM before the beginning of every activity. The only thing which separates human from other creatures is wisdom. It should be noted that education is an activity that improves the understanding of human beings. So it is logical to seek the blessings of the creator before trying to attain wisdom from schools.
According to Rew et al. (2004), “Prayer related positively to the protective resources of social connectivity. Besides, children who prayed frequently reported significantly higher levels of positive health behaviours than children who never prayed” (Rew et al., 2004, p.245). It should be noted that morality and ethics are subjects of contemporary society which are diminishing rapidly. Selfishness is increasing day by day, not only among school children but also among adults. A healthy community cannot grow appropriately without belief in morality and ethics. In short, honesty and ethics should be taught in schools for the betterment and sustainment of society. Upcoming generation holds the key to the development of a nation and civilized society. So, it is necessary to streamline the life of the next generation on the right track. School prayer will help the students to increase their faith in God, morality, and ethics. Such beliefs and principles will prevent them from engaging in antisocial behaviors and from becoming good citizens of the country.
“Church and state separation” is not in the USA. Constitution. Its source (a personal letter) and meaning have been misconstrued. A ban on school prayer infringes student democratic preference. The idea of our founding fathers of a separate church and state has been taken out of context; therefore, why many say Prayer should be allowed but not required in school. At the heart of every religion, there is a way to express one’s deepest thoughts and feelings – prayer (What are the pros and cons of Prayer in school? 2012)
Francis et al. (2008) pointed out a positive association between prayer frequency and better psychological health levels. “Among pupils attending both Catholic and Protestant schools, higher levels of prayer were associated with lower psychoticism scores” (Francis et al., 2008, p.85). Psychoticism refers to a personality disorder of developing aggressiveness and hostility towards others. It should be noted that violence is growing day by day in American schools. School authorities are doing everything possible to reduce violence in schools. The findings of Francis et al. clear reveals the importance of school prayer is reducing aggressive behaviours and violence in schools.
There are plenty of arguments against school prayer in America. One of the major arguments against school prayer is that it places a burden upon students who do not like the concept of Prayer. Lehmann (2010) mentioned that “Students viewed prayer as a challenge to their autonomy” (Lehmann, 2010, p.299). Adolescence is a period in which children try to segregate between good and evil. They may not have the maturity to identify the truths and mistakes. They often make decisions based on emotions rather than wisdom during this period. So, it is illogical to argue that school prayer may become a burden upon their shoulders. It is the duty of the older generation and the government to show the right path to the children.
“Among pupils attending Catholic schools, higher levels of prayer were associated with higher neuroticism scores” (Francis et al., 2008, p.85). Neuroticism refers to a tendency to experience negative emotional states. The teachers must help the students in eliminating their negative emotional states. Students should realize that their knowledge is comparatively weaker than that of their teacher. Whenever they face problems, they have to solve it with the help of their teachers. Even though free thinking should be encouraged on many occasions, it is not so in schools. For example, sex hormones will be hyperactive during adolescence. If children were allowed to satisfy their sexual needs based on free-thinking principles, so many problems might arise in society. Same way, it is illogical to disallow school prayer in the name of free-thinking.
“According to some, prayers can be powerful, particularly if they don’t repetitive and contain personal elements. But many indicated that a school prayer did not help them concentrate on schoolwork” (Jasmine & Young-Joon, 2011, p.26). As in the case of many other things, overdoses of prayers may bring more harm than good. School authorities should give more emphasis to avoid personal elements in school prayers. It should be noted that the majority of American schools consist of students of different religions. Enforcement of Christian worshippers in American public schools may cause some problems to students of other faiths. So, the schools have to eliminate all the personal elements from prayers and emphasize general prayers. It is better to use the word God instead of Jesus in school prayers so that students from other religions may not face problems in accepting such prayers. School authorities should realize that ultimately the objective of school prayers is to cultivate morals and ideals in children’s minds rather than spreading Christianity.
School prayer should be enforced strictly in all American schools, including public and private. Morality and ethics are rapidly diminishing from this world, and it is necessary to reinstate these values in modern society to reduce violence and aggression. School children do not have the maturity to segregate goods and evils. School prayer may help them to reduce their mental stress and start their learning activities in a new mood. All American public bodies, including the Congress, start their functioning after a prayer. Under such circumstances, the disallowing of prayers in school cannot be justified.
American Supreme Court, failed to read the traditions and heritage of America properly, and it ruled against school prayer. The American constitution clearly emphasizes the importance of religion in American political and social lives. One of the major problems in American school campuses is aggression and violence. School prayer helps students to avoid such behaviours and treat their colleagues in a more respected manner. Children during their developmental stages are not matured enough to make wise decisions. So, the argument against Prayer based on the concept of free thinking cannot be accepted. In short, Prayer should be reinstated in all American schools to generate a healthy future generation.
- Bennett, T. & Foldesy, G. (2008). “Our Father in Heaven”: A Legal Analysis of the Recitation of the Lord’s Prayer by Public School Coaches. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, v81 n4 p185-189 Mar-Apr 2008.
- Bill of rights. (n.d.). .). Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
- Debate 6 – Prayer in Public Schools. (N.D.). Retrieved from http://www.graves.k12.ky.us/schools/gchs/bleonard/html/d/debate6.htm
- Declaration of independence (1995). Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/
- Francis, L.J., Robbins, M., Lewis, C. A., & Barnes, L. P. (2008). Prayer and psychological health: A study among sixth-form pupils attending Catholic and Protestant schools in Northern Ireland. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Jan2008, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p85-92
- Jasmine, J & Young-Joon K. (2011) Using Community School Prayer to Create a Calm and
- Positive Feeling in High School Students. Momentum, Feb/Mar2011, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p26-28
- Lehmann, D. (2010). Student and Teacher Responses to Prayer at a Modern Orthodox Jewish
- High School. Religious Education, May/Jun2010, Vol. 105 Issue 3, p299-316,
- Rew, L., Wong, Y. J. & Sternglanz, R.W. (2004). The relationship between Prayer, health behaviors, and protective resources in school-age children. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, Oct-Dec2004, Vol. 27 Issue 4, p245-255
- What are the pros and cons of Prayer in school? (2012). Retrieved from http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org/pros-and-cons-of-prayer-in-school-faq.htm