Monday, October 25, 2010

Prayer in Public Schools

As I mentioned before, this is one of those hot topics where the religious lie constantly.  They constantly misrepresent what the Supreme Court said, constantly misrepresent what the Constitution says, constantly misrepresent what actually happens, and constantly misrepresent their own motives.

They constantly, repeatedly, insistently lie and say that the Supreme Court has told them that they cannot pray in schools.  This is completely untrue.  The Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to pray.  All the court said was that the power of the Government cannot be used to do so, especially with a captive audience.

Since any individual can pray whenever he or she wants, there is nothing stopping these people from praying before sporting events, during school, in courtrooms, etc.  So, why don't they just pray, quit bothering the rest of us, and quit complaining about the Constitution and the Supreme Court?

Because it isn't the actual prayer that they really want.  They already have that.

What they really want is a public show of unanimity, or at least a showing of their numbers.  They also want to signal to each other that they belong to that group.  What is the point of this?  Obviously, it is meant to reassure themselves that they are the dominant group and to publicly display that dominance.  It is meant to make them feel more secure and to send a message of intimidation to anyone who is not one of them.  It is, in short, nothing but a primal status display.

In other words, they are actually upset that they no longer can use the power of government specifically for the purpose of bullying others.

Why is this so important to them?

It is much easier to get people to believe in things for which there is no proof if everyone around them seems to believe in it too.  Once the kids reach the age of reason, it will make it easier for them to ignore that little voice in their heads that says "you know, this sounds like something some primitive person just made up."  When some of the students are actually saying that sort of thing out loud, the brainwashing process will be seriously hampered.

The religious know that such childhood "training" is necessary, just like faith is necessary, to get most people to believe.  In fact, if you listen to believers, you will hear them say repeatedly how important it is to "raise" children as Christians.  Their insistence on organized school prayer is another one of those things that reveal that, deep inside, a lot of believers know their beliefs aren't really true.

If this not so subtle coercion fails to elicit conformity, then the child will be forced to identify himself as a non-believer and suffer the inevitable ostracism and bullying that result.  In case you doubt that this is true, simply research it.  Go to atheist groups, websites, online groups, etc.  You will find numerous non-believers who will report that this sort of thing actually happened to them or their children.

Thus, we reach one of the essential purposes of school prayer:  to identify non-believers--to target us.  They want to know who we are because only then can they bully us into conforming or leaving the community.  This is a gross violation of our human and civil rights.  And, in case it isn't clear, using the power of the government to force people to identify their religious beliefs so that they can then be targeted for ostracism and bullying is un-Constitutional, not to mention immoral and indecent.

The religious sometimes say separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.  What they mean by this is that Jefferson's famous phrase about "a wall of separation between church and state" is not a quotation from the Constitution.  But, they say it in a way that is misleading to anyone not educated in the law, which, sadly, includes many Americans.  They say it in a way that implies that the Supreme Court "created" this separation on its own.  This is a lie.

If the Constitution actually used Jefferson's famous phrase, it would be quite confusing.  How would a judge or official apply such a phrase?  By requiring the building of actual walls?  The First Amendment provides for this separation in a way that can be called "legalese".  It is phrased in a way that is intended to give judges and officials a rule that they can apply.

The very first thing the First Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."  This means quite clearly that the Government cannot adopt an official state religion.  The word "respecting" means that the Government can't even enact laws that amount to less than official establishment if those laws might be part of such official establishment.

The second thing the First Amendment says is "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."  This clearly means that the Government cannot restrict the rights of citizens to pray, etc.

The religious these days like to argue that the rule against organized school prayer abridges their right to freely practice their religion.  This is tantamount to arguing, in this context, that the second clause overrules the first.  Because, if that were the case, then a religion that required "an establishment of religion" as one of the duties of its adherents could easily brush aside the first clause pursuant to the alleged primacy of the second.  But, if that is the case, then the first clause would never have been written and it would not have been first.

Obviously, some restriction on the exercise of religion has to be allowed.  (If a religion considers it a holy practice to sacrifice a non-believer every Sunday, the Government can clearly interfere with the exercise of their religion and stop them.  Or, a more pedestrian example, if a church says it must pray in the middle of the road during rush hour, the Government can intervene.)

The rule is really quite simple, you can exercise your religion so long as that exercise doesn't interfere with the rights of others, which includes the right not to believe and the right to be free from the threat of government coercion.

Along with the right to freedom of speech comes the right to choose not to speak.  Children at school are a captive audience.  If an organized prayer session is held, the children are deprived of their right to keep their opinions to themselves.  They must choose to communicate on the very emotional topic of religion either by praying or by refusing to pray and thus revealing their disagreement whether they want to reveal it or not.  The religious are very fond of telling us non-believers to keep our opinions to ourselves but then do their level best to make it impossible for us to do so.

This is probably one of the best things to say:

"You believers keep telling us to keep our opinions to ourselves.  Well, school prayer deprives us of the right to do so."

Of course, the school prayer scenario and numerous others where believers either force everyone else to declare their religion or at least try to pry it out of them combined with their frequent, and sometimes not so subtle, demands that we shut up about our disagreement tells us one thing very clearly:  The believers want us to conform and will accept nothing else.

The school prayer scenario is inherently coercive--everyone else (or nearly so) is doing it and the authority figures are running the whole show.  How could a child not feel coerced?  The first and most obvious goal of this inherently coercive situation is to send a not so subtle message that conformity in this matter is required to be part of our society.  I want everyone, especially any religious readers, to think about that:  School prayer sends the message that members of this society DO NOT have freedom of religion.  It is not just a question of "offending" non-believers as the lie so often told by believers goes.

It sends this coercive message to our most vulnerable citizens, children.  And, that, of course, is why the religious deem it so important.  It is an integral part of their program to brainwash their children and bully everyone else's.  Otherwise, the religious could simply pray with their children before taking them to school, or instruct them to say a non-disruptive prayer at the beginning of the day.

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