national honor society, and prayer?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ron6103, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Tonight was the induction ceremony for the NHS chapter at my school. It was a nice ceremony, and the kids absolutely deserved it, and are great kids. No qualms there.

    But I had a question I wanted to pose to the group here. The ceremony ended with a prayer. The speaker asked the audience to "please bow your heads in prayer". It was not non-denominational, and in fact specifically referenced Jesus, with a statement along the lines of "and we hope to now move foward in a Christ-like fashion as we... etc."

    I am Jewish. I was terrifically uncomfortable. I got glances from those around me when it was clear my head was not bowed and I was not repeating the statement(s).

    What are your thoughts on this? I was upset, but worry that perhaps I'm overreacting. Or was this indeed illegal? I didn't like it one bit, but I also don't want to cause a stink before I have tenure in this district. :confused:
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I don't bow my head or participate in prayers in public settings like that either. I also don't say the "under god" part of the Pledge. Besides a handful of questions from students asking why I don't say it, no one has ever really seemed to notice it one way or the other. It doesn't seem to bother anyone at least.

    As far as I know, NHS doesn't have any sort of religious affiliation. If there was a prayer offered at the ceremony, it must have been at the discretion of the individuals who organized the ceremony.

    I'm not sure about the legalities of having a prayer at a ceremony like this. I guess I would doubt that it's illegal, especially given that many school ceremonies (such as graduation) include a prayer of some sort.

    I think that you're well within your rights to be upset about this issue, but I'm not sure that your feelings are going to get you anywhere. If I were in your position, I'd probably just ignore it and respectfully decline to participate in future prayers of this sort.
     
  4. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Stand your ground, Ron. We had our first NHS induction in June and I can assure you that the prayer is not part of the official ceremony (we were very by the book with our charter group). I've also been given the stink-eye when I haven't participated in public prayers, but do what you are doing and maintain a stance of respect. Let 'em stare!
     
  5. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    We pray at every Beta function also--state and national. I see no reason not to and I would hate to see that taken away from the students because a minority is uncomfortable. I am Catholic and have had Jewish people pray at functions and I was not uncomfortable. I quietly prayed my own prayer in my mind. If you do not want to participate in the prayer then quietly stand and pray your own way.
     
  6. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    :thumb:
    also, isn't there a rule if it's OFF campus it's ok but ON campus it would be in violation? Don't quote me on that, though.
     
  7. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    It's one thing to have a non-denominational prayer, but the one in the original post was distinctly Christian, which would be jarring to those who are not. It's the difference between being in the minority with an understanding and being marginalized with discomfort.
     
  8. Chalk

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    Do the desires of the many override the preferences of the one?

    Not a fair statement of course wince we don't know if anyone else was... annoyed? by the Christian-ish prayer.

    Ok, I can see your point if they did indeed make this Christian only prayer, however, since all three major monotheistic faiths have the same being as their God. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all are routed in a single creator God supreme to all other ancient God-forms. Jews and Christians had Moses and the OT and Islam had Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism. Same God different ways to get there. ( I reference Moses over Abram/Abraham because, although Abraham was covenant bearer Moses and Aron really were the first true leaders of the Israelites in faith and law.)
    The point is that when ever people gather to pray, despite the nuances of Christ, Allah or straight up to the Lord God, all prayer, faith and love go straight to "Him". So please remember the intent of the prayer is to ask God to guide these young people, its only we mortal humans who sully it with denominations and barriers of faith between each other.

    Some atheist, may find a prayer offensive, but it has been my experience that most atheist tend to take offence to anything they don't believe in or want to happen.
     
  9. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    When I was in high school, I thought I understood that a student-led and organized prayer is OK, a faculty-organized prayer isn't.

    When I was in (public) high school, some of my friends organized a prayer group that met on or two days a week before school started. We had to have faculty approval, and one to be our "sponser," so we had a classroom to meet in, but he didn't do any of the planning or anything... he occasionally participated, but wasn't allowed to be in charge of any of it.
     
  10. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    The OP stated that Jesus had been specifically mentioned in the prayer. While Jesus = God to Christians, many other people don't believe that.

    And there are plenty of us who aren't atheists but who still feel uncomfortable at public displays of prayer. I am one of those people. It's just not a thing that I think should be part of a ceremony like the one described unless it's something that all the participants wanted. (Please understand that I totally support groups like Bible Club and whatnot, given that students can choose to join or not.)
     
  11. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    As a Catholic Christian, I'm sorry if you were made to feel uncomfortable or upset by having a Christian prayer said. In a community where there is a bunch of beliefs, all should be included. But no I don't think such a prayer is normal by any circumstances and may even go against school policy--- you have to check (districts/schools are different).

    I grew up in public and first taught in a non-religious private school, now I'm in a Catholic school and I have to admit, even though I'm a Christian, I find praying in a school setting strange.
     
  12. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I guess I will prove your point here - I take offense in THAT statement.
     
  13. Cerek

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    The OP said the statement was along the lines of "let us move forward in a Christ-like fashion". While Jews do not believe Jesus was the Messiah, my understanding is that they do feel he was a gifted teacher and/or prophet. (I apologize in advance if I am wrong about this).

    If Jesus is considered to be a gifted teacher, is it wrong to suggest he might be an acceptable role model for these students to emulate?

    I understand many people either take offense or feel uncomfortable with public prayer and I know it's easy for me to downplay the impact this has on non-Christian believers.

    The Salutatorian of my HS class was a Jehovah's Witness. When she gave the invocation at graduation, she prayed to Yahweh and Jehovah God. None of us took offense at that. We respected her beliefs and, if some felt a conflict with their own faith, they just said their own prayer instead.
     
  14. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    I am thankful that we live in a free country. I am thankful that we have students who are a part of something nice like NHS. While I may not share every view of everyone who prays to begin the day in the Congress, I do not take offense. Prayer is between God and the one praying. Ergo, if one wishes not to pray, one is not required to do so. Unfortunately, if people are looking around during the prayer and gawking at someone else, they may not be in the right frame of mind for the prayer anyway. In fact, I'd venture to say that they are getting as much out of it as the one not praying. Prayer is part of our culture and society. Prayer is part of the nation's heritage and history. Prayer has its place in society and should continue to do so in my opinion.

    I regret that you have been made to feel uncomfortable, but like others have mentioned, for the brief moments it takes, perhaps people can reflect as they prefer if they care not to pray. For people of prayer, having a prayer at such a function gives the proceedings (or what prefaced it as the case may be) a special meaning.

    Originally, you asked if you were overreacting. Only you know that answer. However, it would seem sad to have the good they accomplished as students overridden by a controversy concerning a prayer included by likely well intentioned people. I wish you the best as you select your next step.
     
  15. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    If the prayer was student-led, and not faculty endorsed in any way, then it was legal. Also, it had to be part of an optional ceremony, not a required part of the school day. If a faculty member came up with the program for the ceremony, then it is illegal, and they could be in big trouble. I worked at a school once where the music teacher would pray before the PTA meetings/programs during the school day. SO ILLEGAL! (She was later asked to leave because of parent complaints about this. She works at a private school now, where she prays as much as she wants.)

    I would maybe approach the sponsors of the club and ask them if prayer is typically a part of the ceremonies. Then check what the rules about that are with a union rep. I mean, don't necessarily go straight to the ACLU or anything, but you may be speaking for students who are not comfortable doing so if you bring it up with someone.
     
  16. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    In my district, we pray before meetings, and we are not a private school. I've never been to NHS induction so I don't know what goes on.
     
  17. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I have respect for the teachings of Jesus on a philosophical manner. However, being told to live my life in a "Christ-like fashion" would bother me because, according to Judaism, the Messiah has yet to arrive. I'm sorry if this offends the Christians in this forum because I love so many aspects of your faith, but this one point is one that is the major dividing point. To observant Jews, there is a HUGE difference between Jesus the teacher and Christ the Messiah.

    There is nothing wrong with an invocation, but make it an open one, at least one that the major Western faiths can all hear and take to heart without offense.
     
  18. Cerek

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    That's an interesting point, catnfiddle. If I'm reading this correctly, Judaism doesn't believe it's possible to live in a "Christ-like fashion" because Christ has not arrived yet to give the example that should be followed. Is that correct?
     
  19. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    I am laboring under the understanding that Jesus the Christ, the Son of God is offensive to observing Jews because He said He is Messiah, whom they believe has yet to come. However, Christ is part of the name of Jesus, yes? So, a Christ-like fashion would be equivalent to a Sister Theresa-like fashion or a Ghandi-like fashion, yes? Not trying to dispute, but to clarify for the sake of this conversation. (Sometimes, the semantics between different faiths can be so variant it helps me to know from whence they speak. Thanks)
     
  20. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Christ is part of his name if you believe that he is, in fact, the "anointed" one (which is what "Christ" means). If you don't believe that, then it's not part of his name. It's just an adjective.
     
  21. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Okay, let's take it away from whether Jesus is or is not the Messiah. The problem was the subject was brought up in a forum that may or may not have been appropriate. The original poster was not repudiating any other religion, just feeling out of place because one was foisted upon him at a school setting.
     
  22. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Thank you for your input thus far, as it's been a fascinating discussion. I haven't really made an issue of it at school, and probably won't at this point. But the issue still concerns me... because I do indeed wonder if it bothered me, were other students bothered. It wasn't quite optional either... if you were a member of the NHS, you had to be there.
     
  23. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    NHS is an optional progam, yes?

    That being said, I was in both NJHS and NHS, and I don't recall a prayer being said at any of our functions or ceremonies.
     
  24. Chalk

    Chalk Companion

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    I am sorry that you choose to take offense however it is your right to be offended and it is my right to offend in our society. The difference is when we decide to be angry and put up walls between us because we disagree on one point in life. The true test of our 1st amendment rights is whether an individual choosing to be offended by the actions of another individual (or group) without those actions directly violating anyones rights, should be able to force the offending group to change its ways to pacify the offended person.

    In other words if Tom is offended by a statement of "John" should Tom have the right to silence Tom, even thought John has done nothing to impede Toms rights?

    I think this is the heart of the question here.
     
  25. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I was going to stay out of this one, but your comment, "I am sorry you [chose] to take offense" struck me oddly. I think the real issue is your generalization of all atheists. It is dangerous to generalize any group of people because every individual is different. As for the rest of your comment, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

    In response to the OP, as a Christian, I would feel out of place if I found myself in the middle of a prayer from a different religious group. I think your decision to not participate was legit and valid. As far as the legality issue, I really don't know, but I suppose it is something you could look into.
     
  26. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    NHS is indeed optional, but it's also a non-religious organization, sponsored by the school, and is designed to promote academic excellence. It also is a great tool to prepare for college, and looks quite good on college applications.
     
  27. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    I am again sorry that you were uncomfortable. I know I am uncomfortable every time I hear the phrase "OMG" or "JmiddlenameC" or other use of what I consider to be God's name in vain. Unfortunately, my discomfort does not prevent that usage and while unfair, I know it will continue. To that end, I am empathetic to your plight. I recognize that it can be annoying. I wanted you to know that while we obviously hold different views, I do respect yours and value yours. I think tolerance has to allow everyone their place and views without squelching the place and views of others. I do not believe we have reached that level in society. I find that despite rules and regulations, we still have disparity and lack of tolerance. For me, I don't like God's name in vain, but it is. Perhaps for you prayer at a meeting might be in that realm as well. I hope we can all have room in society for each other's spiritual needs and practices.
     
  28. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I agree you should never make generalizations about any group. I am a Born-Again Southern Baptist, but some of my best friends are atheists. We have some lively debates at times, but we still respect each others opinions.

    Having said that, the comment about "choosing" to take offense is 100% accurate. Nobody can make you get angry or take offense at something, you make that choice on your own.

    Sure there are things that will set any of us off, but what makes you angry may not bother someone else and I'm sure we've all had occasions when somebody said something to us that would normally upset us, but that time we just brushed it off. Why? Because we chose not to become angry that time for whatever reason.

    I've debated religion on the internet for years. I've had plenty of nasty things said about my faith, my Bible, my personal beliefs and me as an individual. I did get angry at some of the comments initially, but after awhile, I realize how weak the insult really was and it didn't bother me at all anymore.

    There is a member of another forum I visit that is very liberal and literally goes out of his way to be a major prat (British slang) in any response he makes to conservatives. He is condescending, belittling, deliberately insulting and just plain rude on general principle. It bothered me for awhile until I realized this grown man is acting like some of my elementary school kids. I don't let their actions bother me and - when I put his antics in that perspective - I am now able to laugh at most of his childish behavior.

    This is not to encourage insulting comments or excuse broad generalizations. It IS wrong to make such statements, but the person on the other end always has the choice to become angry or not.
     
  29. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    With all due respect, taking offense and becoming angry are two different things.
     
  30. Chalk

    Chalk Companion

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    Well just to clarify, I did not generalize all atheist I stated clearly that it has been my experience ( in talking with atheist about a multitude of topics) that a general negativity or being offended is the response to an issue such as this. That is not generalization it is mere reporting based on past encounters and does not infer all atheist behave in this manner.

    The second part is a reflection on the 1st amendment to the constitution of the united states of america and whether or not free speech should be silenced because some one may choose to be offended by it.
    All emotional response is choice, happy, sad, delighted or offended, we choose how react.

    But others are right this may not be the time or thread to discuss the issue of freedom of speech. I did not mean to hijack this thread in anyway and I apologize to the OP and the group if it appears that I did.
     
  31. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Let's keep this to the topic (prayer leaning heavily toward one specific religion at a non-denominational public school function) so this topic isn't completely shut down.

    What has happened at other school ceremonies, such as Commencement? Most graduations I have attended have included an invocation, but it was always kept as a general blessing of the proceedings. If the blessing is more toward one denomination, this may be something Administration has winked at for years. If not, it may have been the case of the person chosen for the NHS ceremony taking unusual liberties.
     
  32. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Yes, but both are still a choice you make.
     
  33. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    We used to have a short prayer at graduation, but that was stopped several years ago, and has never resumed. The same goes for athletic events and the awards ceremony. This was in fact the first major school event that I've seen this at, but this was also the first time I went to the NHS induction. I don't really know if they've done it for years here or not...
     
  34. Doug_HSTeach_07

    Doug_HSTeach_07 Comrade

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    Why are people so offended at prayer? The Constitution never, ever guaranteed a freedom from religion. So you're offended? I am too, by the countless # of people that use the Lord's name in vain every single day.
     
  35. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    That's a very good point, Doug. One I had considered making as well.

    There is a group called Freedom From Religion that has posted several anti-religious billboards in the metro-Atlanta area.

    They have the First Amendment right of free speech to post their message, of course, but the name of the group reflects a growing misinterpretation of the right to freedom of religion.

    The First Amendment promises the us freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Technically, you do not have the right to be shielded from any exposure to religion, regardless of how offensive you may consider that exposure.
     
  36. Cerek

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    I understand you don't feel Jesus is the Messiah and, therefore, should not be considered the Christ. I also respect the fact that there might have been other students in the group that felt the same way and you want to speak up for them as well. My college roommate is agnostic and said he did not appreciate having to listen to the team prayer held in the locker room before each game when he was on the HS football team. While playing on the team was certainly optional, opting out of the team prayer was apparently not an option.

    Of course, that argument goes the other way as well. There may have been many students in the group that are Christian and were not offended at all by the prayer.

    I asked earlier if Judaism considers Jesus a gifted teacher. The Bible focuses a great deal on His gift for teaching and, it is my understanding from conversations with Jewish friends, that they also acknowledge His gift for teaching. If I am wrong about that, I sincerely apologize. If it is true, though, doesn't Jesus provide an acceptable model for an organization focused on academic excellence? (similar to a PP who suggested moving forward in a Mother Theresa-like or Ghandi-like fashion)

    Would the prayer be less offensive if it just mentioned the name of Jesus without adding the Christ-reference or would the prayer have to avoid any reference to Jesus? Would a more general prayer be acceptable or do you feel there should be no prayer at all at the meetings?
     
  37. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    The First Amendment doesn't actually state either of or from. What it states is, "Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, nor abridging the free expression thereof..."

    You're correct that you don't have the right to "be shielded from any exposure to religion" from any source, but you do have the right to be shielded from exposure to religion from the government. Personal expressions of religion are fine, and while some atheists may remark on them I don't know of any that consider them illegal. This prayer may or may not have been illegal, though it depends less whether it was on school grounds per se and more whether it was an official school function and on the type of organization the NHS is.

    Simply because these things happen often does not mean they are not illegal.

    Try substituting other ethnic or religious groups and try to imagine if you would get away with that kind of excuse. "It's been my experience that Jews are scheming"? You'd be accused of being a bigot. As you've pointed out, it is of course your freedom to be a bigot.
     
  38. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I don't think that Ron6103 was complaining about prayer in general or was offended at all. He was uncomfortable about not only having something that was worded in Purple Religion while he subscribes to Blue Religion, but that he was getting glares from people for being respectfully quiet but not actively participating. If he had been in a Purple Religion house of worship, that might have been something, but this was at a Green ceremony.

    I tried to take out the names of the religions so it would take away some of the more personal instincts.
     
  39. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    That is a terrific post, catnfiddle. :thumb:

    That really puts things in the proper perspective. Great job.

    I agree completely that Ron should not be made to feel uncomfortable for remaining respectfully quiet during the prayer. The others should show the same respect towards his wish to abstain from the prayer.
     
  40. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

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    Oh, this is my big pet peeve!! Watch out because here I go.

    Prayer, in my opinion, has absolutely no place in public schools and their organizations and events. By its nature, prayer excludes atheists, agnostics, and let's face it, anyone not Christian. Most forms of prayer and "moments of silence" are done in a Christian way, offered by Christians, and led by Christians.

    I feel if people want to pray, they can do it in their car on the way home, before they go to bed, or at any other time during their day.

    I would have complained about this.
     
  41. SpecSub

    SpecSub Comrade

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    Sep 16, 2010

    That is a very rude thing to say. I have a few things on the tip of my tongue, but there are many good people here who happen to be Christians whom I would not like to offend.

    But look around you. What would you do if Muslims offered up a prayer, complete with the bowing, and expected everyone else to do the same? After all, Christians expect the standing and bowing of the head, so turn-about is fair play. You would not like that too much, would you.

    If you want to pray so badly, pray at home. I'm sure your God already knows what a devout person you are, so he can wait an hour or two until you get home to pray.
     

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