There’s been prayer in public schools for as long as there have been tests. So goes the old joke.
But for religious minorities it’s not so funny as the the school prayer issue reemerges with proposals in various states, most recently Mississippi, to test just what is permissible. It’s complicated legal terrain, for sure, and everyone’s rights should be respected. But, the issue is frequently approached as though there isn’t prayer in school now and these proposals will introduce it. Anyone who spends time in schools in many parts of this country – especially the South – gets that there is a lot of religious activity now. So while the people pushing these various laws are obviously trying to foist one version of religion into the public square – are they inadvertently setting in motion something that those favoring a church-state divide in education will come to appreciate? If every prayer before an event or every
holiday Christmas concert needs a laborious and clumsy set of disclaimers ahead of it (something more robust than a notation in a printed program), then might these proposals actually lessen rather than increase the amount of organized and quasi-organized religious expression in public schools?
Worth remembering: The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which seems likely to find a rich set of converts among high school students) isn’t yet engaged on this issue.