10 June 2005

Freedom to force others to pray


I can't believe that school prayer is still an issue.

My Houston-area high school would broadcasting prayers over the PA system every morning when I was a student in the early '70s. This was in flagrant violation of court decisions, something I pointed out to the principal one morning when I insisted on chatting with my friends during the prayer. (I got to know the principal pretty well that year.)

In retrospect, I should have instead formed the Church of Jimi Hendrix and played Purple Haze after the school-sponsored prayer and insisted that no one speak for the duration.

Just to be clear, I'm not against prayer in schools; I would never try to stop anyone who was, for instance, engaged in a little silent prayer before a calculus test. What I am against is prayer in which others are forced to participate — even by being forced to hear it, or having to be silent for the duration — or where it is promoted by any arm of government, including school teachers. Prayer circles in the quad at lunch? Fine by me. Coach leading the team in prayer before a game? Not so much.

Freedom of religion means freedom for all, or no, religion, or it means nothing.