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These quotes refer to restrictions on prayer in the classrooms, and at sports events in public schools.

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Billy Graham, evangelist: "Eighty percent of the American people want Bible readings and Prayer in the schools...Why should the majority be so severely penalized by the protests of a handful?"

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Senator Phillip A. Hart (Michigan): "I'm a Catholic and I hope a devout one, but I think that the public school classroom is no place for me to try and impose my world formula for prayer on children who don't share it, and for that very reason, I don't want my children in a public school classroom to be exposed to someone else's religion or formula."

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Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president, American Jewish Congress: "[The decision is] one that will prove of significant benefit to the cause of religion and religious freedom in America."

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James Francis Cardinal McIntyre: "In embracing the materialistic concepts of life as the religion of man and denying the almost universal acceptance that creation was divine, and the necessary consequences flowing there from, the effect of the decision can only mean that our American heritage of philosophy, of religion, and of freedom are being abandoned in imitation of Soviet philosophy, of Soviet materialism, and of Soviet-regimented liberty."

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Congressperson Ernest Istook (R-OK) Proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. The United States and the States shall not compose school prayers, not require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity." 2

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Some postings from the "Prayer in school" bulletin board at AmarilloNet. [Spelling corrected]:
bullet"...it turns out what the religious right really wants is not freedom to practice religion in schools, but rather they want Christianity to be the state-sponsored religion."
bullet"Exactly right, Big Texan! This is why even Christians should get behind the idea of separation of church and state. There is no guarantee that Christianity will be the primary religion the school, and that the 'official' prayers will be Christian."
bullet"Here I bow my head to pray
But not to MY God, I am ashamed to say
For He is not sanctioned by the state
So some other prayer I must make.

It all started out so well and good
'Put God Back In School' we said we would
But then the society around us changed
The 'official' God now has a different name.

We were warned, but we couldn't wait
To abolish the separation of church and state
Because the majority was on our side
Our religion was worshiped far and wide.

But the world grew smaller as years went by
And others moved in as we began to cry.
'They donít believe the same as we do!'
Suddenly, our decision we began to rue.

Politicians in office now had a different God.
They vowed to make us follow Him, they would.
And since the state now decides our belief
We can blame only ourselves for our grief.

So now I bow my head to pray
And wish I could go back to that day
When we didnít know what we would lose
And I could worship the God I choose."

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Reaction by an anonymous woman after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order banning prayers before football games at the Douglas County High School in Douglasville, GA.: "I believe in prayer, but I think somebody ought to beat him up." [She was referring to Doug Jager, the person who applied for the restraining order.

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Rita Rainwater, Douglasville, GA; letter to the editor "This country was founded on freedom of religion, not separation from religion. I'm tired of people trying to take my rights and my children's rights to pray away. It seems the trend of this country is to push people in the closet to pray...Those of us who are Christians, let's band together and keep the invocation at our ball games. Let's give God a reason to bless America again".

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From the cover of the book "Without a Prayer: Religious expression in Public Schools:" "Alley has conducted extensive personal interviews with those involved in prominent cases. Each firsthand account clearly details how communities attempt to impose the mores and cultural patterns of religion on their public schools; in some instances these 'Christians have gone beyond angry protests to threats of violence against the parents and children and even as far as arson and other property damage.' "

"To respond to the question, 'What's wrong with a little prayer?' one need only observe the ways in which religious fervor leads to the use of the Bible and prayer as a weapon against minorities." 4

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Lewis Grizzard "I am convinced there are people who don't have a mother. They include people who would burn the flag, pitch a fit about prayers at a foot ball game...These people came into the world from under a rock." 5

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Wilburn Campbell, Albany State College Athletics Director: "It's an unfortunate situation when you've got a group of people telling you that you can't pray. It's fairly akin to burning the flag." 6

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Bill Jager, "The Problem with the religion public school controversy is the dishonesty by Fundamentalist Conservative Christians. Religion and Christianity is not the problem. There are many Christian who understand the necessity for keeping government and religion separate. Prayer is not even the problem. A student can still pray in a public school, silently or even in a group as long as no one is coerced to participate. The problem is only with a selective group wanting the government to sponsor their brand of Christianity. Fundamentalist Conservative Christians can not even be honest (which should say a lot about their brand of Christianity) in claiming that prayer is banned in public schools. It's not about prayer in public schools -- it's using the government to sponsor their prayer and it is about being seen and heard praying in a government setting....The war waged by the Fundamentalist Conservative Christian is to keep students ignorant and unaware of knowledge other than the fundamentalist church teachings and make a "safer" in public school for their children. In this way the Fundamentalist Conservative Christian children will not deviate and will not question the dogma." 7

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Postings to a forum: "Prayer in Public Schools - YOUR thoughts" at the AMG EarthSpirit Pagan web site: 8

bullet"By including groups that worship or communicate with a higher power, you're excluding people that don't believe in one. I respect people's rights to choose their own belief system (Theist or not) and would never want to impose upon that. Allowing prayer in school imposes a Theist belief system system upon person(s) that might not necessarily believe in one."
bullet"...given a cause to fight, maybe our children will find themselves more dedicated to their own faith. That's how it happened for me anyway. A high school English class was reading the Bible and I refused. Despite the names and ostracism, it made me realize just how much my faith meant to me - as much as Christianity meant to the others in my school. So, you might be surprised how your children react. It might not be a bad idea to let them fight for themselves and not take the battle out from under them. "
bullet"...setting up a prescribed time for all people to come and pray just sets up the minority students for a fall. Even teens do not have the ability to handle harassment, as evident by the school shootings and the suicides, and in my experience, teachers would sit back and watch the harassment go on under the umbrella of 'teaching them to handle it themselves.' It doesn't work. By instituting prescribed prayer in schools, another divide will be created to set children apart and bring their differences out in the open. It will create more problems than it ever could solve."
bullet"We all know how cruel children can be, can't we? Taunting, bullying, etc. Picture this: prayer (school-sponsored, lead by a teacher) is introduced. A non-Christian child (Wiccan, Islam) exercises his/her right 'not to participate' and leaves the room, does schoolwork, etc. You might as well paint a large red bulls eye on his/her back. Or tape a sign there that says Kick Me. School prayer? Nosiree, Bob!"
bullet"I don't support actual prayer in schools. I think there should be a small amount of time set aside for worship of whatever faith each child belongs to. I don't think it's right to force children to worship a faith they don't prescribe to, and requiring them to sit thru prayer of another faith would be almost the same thing."

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Resolution passed by the The Lafayette, LA, School Board:

WHEREAS, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor (George Washington); and,

WHEREAS, we need God to be our friend and ally and to keep God's concurring aid because God governs in the affairs of men and we have been assured in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain who build it'(Benjamin Franklin); and,

WHEREAS, the whole future of American civilization has been staked not upon the power of government but upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God (James Madison-Father of the U.S. Constitution); and,

WHEREAS, our constitution was made only for a moral and a religious people and is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (John Adams); and,

WHEREAS, by an inevitable chain of causes and effects, God punishes national sins with national calamities (George Mason--Father of the Bill of Rights); and,

WHEREAS, we tremble for our country when we reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever (Thomas Jefferson); and,

WHEREAS, we have forgotten God and have become too proud to pray, it behooves us to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness (Abraham Lincoln); and,

WHEREAS, the federal government has no authority whatsoever respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (U. S. Constitution, Amendment 1); and,

WHEREAS, every religious society has the right to determine for itself the times for its exercises, and the objects proper to them, according to their particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has placed it (Thomas Jefferson); and,

WHEREAS, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government, it must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority (Thomas Jefferson); and,

WHEREAS, one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough place will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; this is our hope; this is the faith (Martin Luther King, Jr.); and,

WHEREAS, after the terrible tragedies of September 11, 2001, our nation needs the power of prayer perhaps as never before; now,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Lafayette Parish School Board calls upon all our federal officials to reconsider the restrictions placed upon the public expression of religious faith in the form of spoken prayer and allow all faiths to express their beliefs in the form of public, spoken prayer. 9

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Petition to reinstate prayer in public schools:

Dear President Bush:
Many of us were deeply touched to hear you recite a portion of Psalm 23 in your address to this great nation in the dark hours following the terrorists attacks. We were encouraged and comforted to know that we truly had a believer working with us and for us in our nation's highest office.

We the people of America are requesting that you lift the prohibition of prayer in schools. As the pledge of our great country states, we are to be 'One nation, under God.' Please allow the prayers and petitions of our children in schools without the threat of punishment. Currently, adults and children in the schools are prohibited from mentioning God unless of course His name is uttered as part of a curse or profanity. Madeline Murray O'Hare is dead. Let her legacy of atheism in our schools die with her!

Sincerely ,

The People of America. 8

[Editor's notes:

bulletThe petition seems misdirected because neither the President nor the Congress can "lift the prohibition of prayer in [public] schools."
bulletThe petition is in error. Most public schools have student-led clubs. They are guaranteed under the Equal Access Act of the right to organize a Bible or prayer club.
bulletStudents can already pray in or at school. They can pray on the bus, at the flagpole, in the cafeteria, and in the halls. They can pray in the classroom before and after classes.]

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  1. "Topic: Prayer in School," AmarilloNet.com bulletin board at: http://www.amarillonet.com/ubb/Forum34/
  2. Matt Pyeatt. "Congressman Urges School Prayer Constitutional Amendment," CNSNews.com, at: http://www.botcw.com/talk/
  3. Published in The Douglas County Sentinel, 1986-SEP-26.
  4. Robert S. Alley, "Without a Prayer: Religious expression in Public Schools" Prometheus Books.
  5. The Atlanta Constitution, 1989-SEP-18.
  6. The Atlanta Constitution, 1989-SEP-23.
  7. Bill Jager, "Public School Prayer Creates Violence," at: http://www.mindspring.com/~wjager/
  8. "Prayer in Public Schools - YOUR thoughts," Forum: at the AMG EarthSpirit Pagan web site at: http://www.amystickalgrove.com/dcforum/
  9. The resolution was passed on 2001-NOV-7. The vote was 5 to 4. See: Gene Garman, "Lafayette School Board resolution on public prayer," at: http://www.sunnetworks.net/~ggarman/ The web site contains a point-by-point rebuttal.

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Copyright © 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-AUG-5
Latest update: 2002-AUG-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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