Prayer in Public Schools
Teacher-led prayer in public schools has been forbidden by the Supreme Court for many decades. Many Christians feel that the exclusion of God from public schools along with the promotion of secular ideologies has contributed to the failure of graduates to do better in life. Certainly, this is a difficult topic in multicultural American schools and uneasy accommodation has been determined through multiple legal challenges in federal courts.
To be clear, students and teachers still have the right to “voluntarily pray” in public schools, while “mandatory” teacher-led school-sponsored prayer is very limited. Any mention of God by teachers or administration has largely disappeared from the school curriculum. This means that children of parents who are not interested in God may never learn about Christianity (or any other religion).
About one-half of Americans are unchurched today and with any mention of God removed from most schools, those Americans will likely remain unchurched. Most of these people have little interest in church and have little or no idea concerning the message of Christianity.
The Pledge of Allegiance is the only exception to the mention of God in public schools. This mention has been of intense concern to devoted atheists who work tirelessly against the mention of God in the public sphere. This led to countless court fights between atheists and school districts concerning whether the Pledge represents unconstitutional support of religion in public schools.
The Pledge has not been explicitly ruled as being constitutional by the Supreme Court. However, the pledge has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts as was judged not to be primarily religious in nature. Schools can not force students to recite the Pledge, and fewer schools include the Pledge in their morning routines at the present time.
Brief History of Prayer in Public Schools
The multicultural population of the United States has made prayer in public schools a controversial topic, often eliciting spirited debates from many interested parties. Since the United States was founded by religious-minded people, it should not be too surprising that schools were used to teach children about their Christian faith. Public schools, private schools, and American church schools all used the Bible as a textbook as well as a devotional guide. The use of Scripture in public schools was particularly important in Puritan New England.
Opening exercises often started with the Lord’s Prayer, Bible readings, and roll call. This continued to the mid-twentieth century throughout American. For example, in Pennsylvania public elementary and secondary schools the Lord’s prayer, Bible reading, roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance were all recited before formal education could begin.
The King James Version of the Bible and some earlier editions such as the Bishop’s Bible were brought to the country by the early settlers. The Bible itself was used for learning to read and for reading in the schools. Bible stories and principles were taught, Bible history was learned by reading through Scripture, and passages were memorized in school – especially the Ten Commandments.
The New England Primer was a series of readers teaching children through stories. Each story had a moral lesson that represented Biblical teaching. The Primer was first introduced about 1690 and continued to be the major reader in public schools for the next 150 years.
The New England Primary was gradually replaced by the McGuffey Eclectic Readers. These Readers were first published in 1836 with more than 122 million copies of the readers sold during the next century to schools throughout the country. The original readers contained more than ten whole chapters from the Bible and were accompanied by questions about the topics of themes pertinent to the material.
By 1949, Bible reading was a part of the routine in public schools throughout at least thirty-seven states, with reading often required by state laws.
Students’ Right to Pray in School
Brad Dacus – the President of Pacific Justice Institute noted,
in every case defending students’ rights to pray, the students have prevailed, even teachers have the right to pray in school.
Author Bill Federer quoted Ronald Reagan saying,
the constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying, its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray.
Bill Clinton noted at James Madison High School,
The First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door.
Nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones or requires all religious expression to be left behind at the schoolhouse door.
Efforts to Remove God from Public Schools
A group of atheists filed a lawsuit in 1959 to stop New York’s mandatory prayer which took place after the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Students prayed,
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country. Amen.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented the atheists in the lawsuit challenging this non-denominational prayer, Engel v. Vitale, which went up to the Supreme Court. The ACLU was founded by Roger Baldwin who wrote,
Political democracy is useful only as a tool of peaceful change
Communism is the God.
When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means.
I joined. I didn’t regret being a part of the Communist tactic, which increased the effectiveness of a good cause.
I knew what I was doing. I was not an innocent liberal. I wanted what the Communist wanted.
I am for socialism, disarmament, and ultimately, for abolishing the state itself … I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class, and the sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal.
Baldwin would later turn against centralized governments when he recognized their tendency to become totalitarian. Stalin’s mass purges where millions of his fellow citizens were murdered further soured Baldwin’s taste for leftist governments.
Karl Marx provided the intellectual justification for the mass slaughter of people who might disagree with the socialist central government as the Revolution of the Proletariat. He noted,
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation.
Lenin used Marx’s justification for non-peaceful revolution noting,
The whole history of socialist … is revolutionary striving.
The goal of socialism is communism.
Ann Rand was a twentieth-century writer whose novels portrayed the dangers of centralized government. She noted,
There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force; socialism – by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.
President Harry Truman noted in his Inaugural Address,
Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule ot strong masters.
Communism subjects the individual to arrest without lawful cause, punishment without trial, and forced labor as a chattel of the state
It decrees what information he shall receive, what art he shall produce, what leaders he shall follow, and what thoughts he shall think.
The 45 Goals of Communism
In 1963, Democratic Congressman Albert Herlong warned about the infiltration of leftist doctrine into America. He read these goals into the Congressional Record on January 10, 1963, with the unanimous consent of Congress – many of which have already been accomplished or well underway
3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament [by] the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be
used for war.
6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.
11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world
government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily
by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)
12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.
13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.
15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the
curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, and policymaking positions.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was
told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”
23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”
24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion
pictures, radio, and TV.
26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, and healthy.”
27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for
intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of
“separation of church and state.” (Remember these goals were published to expose them in 1958) Coincidence?
29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to
cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.
30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”
31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a
minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies,
welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.
33. Eliminate all laws or procedures, which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.
38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric
disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand [or treat].
40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and
retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and
special-interest groups should rise up and use [“] united force [“] to solve economic, political or social problems.
43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.
Arguably, all of these goals have already been accomplished – some of them very recently. These goals include breaking down the family, church, cultural standards, raising children away from the influence of their parents, encourage student riots, elimination of prayer in he public schools, discourage the teaching of history, discredit the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution among others.
Elimination of God
The elimination of God from modern society is a primary goal of socialist societies and totalitarian governments. President Eisenhower noted on February 20, 1955,
The Founding Fathers … recognizing God as the author of individual rights, declared that the purpose of Government is to secure those rights …
In many lands, the State claims to be the author of human rights.
If the State gives rights, it can – and inevitably will – take away those rights.
If the State determines what is right and wrong, then the state will decide who is more equal and who is less equal generating a two-tiered justice system. George Orwell described this situation in his 1945 novel Animal Farm,
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Despite socialism’s promises of a “classless” society in which everybody is equal, Orwell explained in his novel how socialism always ends up being run by selfish bullies who set themselves up as the elites – everybody else is rewarded or punished by how they relate with this elite class.
George Orwell had pigs be the elite on the socialist farm. The pigs noted,
We pigs are brain workers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare.
It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? …
The Importance of keeping the pigs in good health was all too obvious.
So it was agreed without further argument that the milk and the windfall apples (and also the main crop of apples when they ripened) should be reserved for the pigs along.
In Soviet Russia, for example, the leaders lived in country villas surrounded by luxury far beyond the ordinary citizen. The ordinary citizen had rationed food, lived in squalid government housing, and had little or no chance of improving their life. In theory, they got free medical care, free education, free housing, and free subway service.
Regarding education, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told Ezra Taft Benson, Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture, that,
Your children’s children will live under communism.
You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you will finally wake up and find that you already have communism.
We won’t have to fight you: We’ll so weaken your economy until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands.
Zhou Enlai, who worked with Mao Zedong’s Communist Party killing an estimated 20 million people, noted,
One of the delightful things about Americans is that they have absolutely no historical memory.
Hitler understood the importance of educating the youth in its manufactured history made to glorify a German empire. He said,
We have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth … at a very early age …
The new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.
The Communist Party Education Workers Congress noted in 1918,
We must create out of the younger generation a generation of communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good communists …
We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them.
From the first days of their lives, they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children’s nurseries and schools. There, they will grow up to be real Communists.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin noted,
Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.
The goal of Socialism is Communism.
Karl Marx noted,
The education of all children, from the moment they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions at state expense.
Josef Stalin noted,
Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
Leon Trotsky stated,
If our generation happens to be too weak to establish socialism over the earth, we will hand the spotless banner down to our children …
It is the struggle for the future of all mankind.
Friedrich Engles, one of the philosophers instrumental in establishing the principles of Communism, whore in The Principles of Communism,
Democratic socialists … favor some of the same measures the Communists advocate.
End of Prayer in Public Schools
The ACLU won the Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale officially ending the three-century-old tradition of state-sponsored prayer in public schools. At about the same time, Madalyn Murray O’Hair attempted to defect from America to the USSR. She was a radical atheist proponent of socialism who felt she might be more at home in the Soviet Union. Her son, William Murry, notes she was refused entry into the country and (unfortunately) sent back to this country.
O’Hair filed other lawsuits and eventually, any state-sponsored mention of God was banned in public schools. Viewpoint discrimination continued in public schools as atheism, white shaming, abortion, socialism, sharia Islam, and a “hate America” philosophy taught as in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
O’Hair needed outside help in the management of her property. She hired convicted felons to provide this help trying to project a tough image. Three of the felons she employed murdered her, mutilated her body, and buried it in a shallow grave.
Her son, William J. Murray, eventually became a Christian minister and wrote a best-selling book My Life Without God. He helped form the Religious Freedom Coalition to support persecuted Christians throughout the world and authored many other books on religious topics.
School Prayer in America Today
The past several decades have witnessed multiple legal cases making their way through the federal courts concerned prayer in public schools. These have included cases regarding student-led prayer at high-school graduation, Christian clubs meeting in school, the use of public school property by religious schools, or public school education on church property, tax dollars for playground safety at religious schools, etc.
The COVID pandemic has helped to bring the viewpoint discrimination of several states into clear focus. Several allow casinos, marijuana shops, liquor stores, abortion clinics, along with riots and protest while forbidding churches to function at all. Churches have been threatened with physical destruction by the Chicago government if they did not stop meeting.
The First Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights states,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The history of religion in America is complicated. Christians were important in the American Revolution separating the country from the oppressive government of England. Churches have also been heavily involved in the abolition of slavery and in the peaceful civil rights movement.
People who are religious add considerable value to the social fabric of America; they give more to secular society, volunteer more, graduate more frequently from high school and are in prison less. They give more to all forms of charity and support policies that encourage citizens to be responsible for themselves.
Certainly, atheists can be good citizens if they borrow from the Christian moral code, and certainly many atheists are better citizens than many Christians. However, history has clearly shown that truth of the Dostoyevski assertion that without God – all things are permissible.
The government killing of its citizens can always be rationalized through some mechanism invoking the public good. Witness for example the extermination camps of Germany or the abortion clinics in America.
It is tragic that many children will never hear of these contrasts or learn the value of Christianity.
Unless we tell them.