Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ron6103, Sep 13, 2010.
Sep 16, 2010
Not if you're a captive audience, as were the original poster and the students who attended.
Yes, what you said.
Sep 17, 2010
Even if you're a "captive audience", you can still choose how you react emotionally.
Would I be uncomfortable if the leader decided to do a muslim prayer, complete with bowing? Probably. Would I become offended or angry about the situation? That is a different matter entirely. My reaction is a choice I make and I have complete control over that choice, whether I'm in a "captive audience" or not.
Saying someone else has control over how you react gives them power over you that they don't really have.
So, when is it okay to have an emotional reaction to something? Where do you draw the line? Some people just do not have that degree of control over their emotions, and religion can be an issue that tends to make emotions run hot.
And why should it be okay to make people feel uncomfortable over religion at a public school event? Great. We have control over our emotions, and we can choose not to be offended or angry by prayer, and we can choose to merely be uncomfortable. But, during our day working (or attending) a publicly-funded school, why should we have to make that choice?
Of course there are times when it is ok to have an emotional reaction to something. When is it acceptable? Once again, that is a choice each individual must make.
Some people don't have that degree of control over their emotions. That's true. But a great many more simply don't exercise the control they have available to them. It's like the student who gets mad about an assignment and says "This is too hard. I can't do it." then folds their arms in defiant frustration. Once you get the student to try the assignment and show them how to work through it step-by-step, they realize the the assignment isn't as hard as they thought. Or maybe it is hard for them, but they discover they can do it by taking one step at a time.
I never said it was ok to make someone uncomfortable over religion at a public school event. I simply suggested the OP and others had more control over how they reacted to the situation than they realized.
I never felt like I had the ability to choose my emotions, only how I react and respond to them. In fact, I feel sorry for people who don't know what is like to have those raw feelings.
Regarding the original issue, I think the part of the first amendment in question here is "establishment of religion", not the freedom of religion part. Because the school is an extension of the government, any religious action by school officials can be seen as a government establishment of religion. And note that it says "religion" not "a religion." The absence of that "a" is significant. We are not saying that the government can't establish A religion, such as Christianity in this case, but that the government can't establish RELIGION period. So even a more inclusive prayer is an establishment of religion.
Regarding this issue, however, there are some gray areas. It is an after school function that the child chooses, and it may or may not have been led by another student. However, in my opinion, since the function and foundation of the program is not a religious one, to my knowledge, than the prayer should not have been said.
I did not say we choose our emotions. I said we choose how we react to those emotions. Just because a person can remain calm, overlook an intentional insult, or choose not to become offended by the actions of another doesn't mean that person is an emotionless robot. It just means they choose how to respond to the emotions they feel.
The First Amendment also says Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. The problem with banning religion in school is that many districts also ban the free exercise of religion by students in the school. A member of another forum I visit said he was told by his teacher he could NOT bring his Bible to school and read it during lunch break. When he continued to do so, the principal tried to confiscate the Bible, until the person threatened to make a public issue about the illegal restriction of his religious beliefs.
Regarding the NHS meeting, none of us know for a fact the students involved objected the prayer. I don't feel Ron should have been made uncomfortable by the stares, but IF everyone else supported having an opening prayer, that would qualify as free exercise of religion. If, however, there were some students who objected to the prayer (as Ron did), then I agree the prayer should be left out of the ceremony.
Ron has a right to not be pressured into participation of a prayer or ritual he doesn't agree with, but each individual also has the right to freely exercise their religion. IF every other person there was in agreement with the prayer, the question then becomes whether the right of one individual outweighs the rights of the other individuals.
Even though it is repeated in every discussion like this, the phrase "separation of church and state" does not exist anywhere in the Constitution. The First Amendment originally was intended to apply only to federal government and it wasn't until the mid-20th century that the more restrictive interpretation was made by the courts. In 1963, the Warren Court ruled state governments must demonstrate a compelling interest in restricting religion. However, the Supreme Court retreated from this standard, permitting governmental actions that were neutral regarding religion.
Source: First Amendment
Matthew 6:5-7: "'And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.'"
The speaker is Jesus, and the point recurs throughout the book of Matthew and is echoed in the Epistles.
As a Christian, I understand that I am not free to flaunt my religiosity if doing so poses a stumbling block to others.
Clearly wrong, of course, but for some reasons schools don't seem to understand who is restricted and do things like ban Bibles, Korans, or nose rings thoughtlessly. The students should indeed be free to read their religious texts, use religious themes in discretionary projects such as artwork or stories, and even proselytize to other students (within harassment limits). It's the school system, the teachers and administrators, who are restricted in their capacities as representatives of government.
Whether it qualifies as free exercise or government establishment does not depend on whether everyone agrees.
If it's a Constitutional question we're talking about, the question never becomes whether every (other) person there is in agreement with the prayer.* It's simply not a legal standard. Even if Ron were not present, the analysis for whether it's legal or not remains the same (though you're unlikely to get a complaint in court if everyone agrees, of course).
Perhaps you might miss the moral reason why this is so. A governmental endorsement of religion serves to increase bigotry. Atheists are often seen as unpatriotic or unAmerican. Accusations of atheism frequently appear in political campaigning. This kind of bigotry doesn't just get reinforced when Ron (or another dissenter) is in the room. Daily recitation of the pledge, for instance, (I don't want to make this a Pledge discussion, it's just an example) enforces the idea in students that liberty and justice for all are important values, and that those who support tyranny and injustice are not reflecting American values. Inclusion of "under God" often puts that on the same level in their minds.
True, the phrase was found in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. At the time the Constitution was originally ratified, states were indeed able to have their own official religions or not. Note that this applies to the entire First Amendment, so a state could also have decided on restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly. A state could have had an official newspaper and outlawed all others, for example. The 14th Amendment is held to apply the Bill of Rights to the states. In fact, it is only fairly recently that a right of privacy was interpreted in the Constitution -- before it was, states could and did enforce laws regarding personal decisions such as contraception and sexual behavior.
*conversely, if the expression is legal it doesn't matter if every person there disagrees with it.
That was very well said and to the point. I agree 100%.
Sep 18, 2010
I am vaguely Christian, and I am made uncomfortable by prayer in the public school setting, such as the one that occurs at our school's pep rally each week. Even when I was young and in what my friends affectionately called my "hyper-Christian" days, I felt uncomfortable leading or participating in prayers at public schools, even though I was a prayer leader at church.
As a public school teacher, and therefore an employee of the government, it is not my place to mold the spiritual lives of my students while at work or any school-sponsored event. If any of them happen to attend the same church as I do, which a few do, then while we are there in the context of two individuals worshiping and learning, then I can answer questions, give guidance, teach Sunday school, etc.
However, my husband is atheist and I attend regular freethinker meetings locally. As I mentioned before, my religious beliefs, while best expressed by worshiping in a Protestant church, are somewhat less mainstream, and I find I have much in common spiritually and intellectually with the agnostics, atheists, etc. They are not out to remove religion from American society. They are not out to steal our children and sell them to the devil. They are good people involved in community service. They just want to make sure that the rules and laws regarding freedom to worship and freedom from religion are being followed in our schools and other publicly-owned buildings. They aren't angry about people praying, they just really love our country and want the rules regarding religious freedom to be followed!
I think that the attitudes expressed by Chalk are heard so often by atheists that, based on my experiences with an entire organization of them, they notice more when people are stereotyping them in those ways. They've heard it so many times in a negative context! Certainly, a member would be "called out" as it were about making a stereotype that an African American would act or respond a certain way, or that all that Christians feel the same way that you do about atheists, or that all people who are severely overweight always respond a certain way to certain things. It's no more true of atheists than it is of any other group, and stereotyping a person based on one of their characteristics is offensive, rather they "choose" to become angry about it, and no matter how they choose to respond.
But to identify ones self with a specific group is to accept the ideals of that group hence when someone identifies themselves as "X" than they have made a social agreement to accept the ramifications, beliefs and even stereotypes that go with it.
If i Identify myself as a Black man instead of just a man I am taking on the social concept of being black first and a man second. Until society can see me as just a man and not a black man I am trapped by the physical identifier, One day my physical appearance may not matter to anyone and they will see me as a man how happens to be black in color. This is not the case with people who choose to identify themselves with a specific group, when I say "so and so is a democrat" people already form ideas about that person based on the stereotype of a democrat AND on how they feel about what the democratic party stands for.
I don't know if I am explaining the concept well enough here. More or less, the idea is that stereotypes are multifaceted in our culture and in some regards they are needed to help us identify people in use, danger, and general position in the society. The problem become when we let the stereotype become the primary guiding factor in how we judge someone, like saying black before man, instead of giving them the chance to prove who they are within and beyond the stereotype.
Does that make sense?
While it is important to that individual if he or she becomes uncomfortable in that situation, isn't the real question whether or not it is legal to pray (any religion) at a public school function led by paid adult staff?
Yes, but being atheist isn't a choice. Being a part of a religion is a choice. Being labeled as atheist is a result of religious people labeling others. If there was no religion, there wouldn't be a label.
I am not an atheist. I am not anything. I don't need a label. But if I explained my beliefs to someone, he or she would probably label me as an atheist. But it is not my choice to have that label. In fact, my absence of a choice is what gives me the label.
Additionally, you can be offended by what someone says about a group without being a part of that group. I try to send this message to my students all the time. You don't have to be gay to be offended when you hear someone say "That's gay."
Even something as simple as this statement is complicated. I'm not religious, the only time I've been to church is for funerals and weddings.
But, I understand my history, and what you've stated is an argument that will never end. When the country was founded, using the same language we have today, prayer was an intricate part of all government work. Hence congress leading in prayer, oaths to God to serve government/testify in court, etc.
In the last century that has all been challenged, a new interpretation, saying what was meant is this or that. What used to be considered the state will sponsor no Church (Church of the United States ala the Church of England or the Church of Sweden) where tax dollars would fund the institution, it came to say in a modern sense that religion in general should have no place in government.
It's not a simple yes or no.
Personally, I don't care if people pray or don't pray. I have a problem when people force you to pray or not to pray. Other than that, I could care less.
Being an atheist is a choice more than believing in a God(s).
If you've logically come to the conclusion that there is no God, it is equally logical to come to the conclusion that there is a God. Thus, it's your choice, you've decided there is no God, regardless of equal evidence to the opposite argument.
There is no choice in being agnostic, because you've stopped at the logical conclusion without making a choice, that one cannot know for certain.
However, believing in God, one has 'faith.' Again, I'm not religious, so I can't argue the words validity. However, based on the definition of the word, it's a feeling and not based on logic/reasoning. Thus, faith in God is not a choice as they didn't use reasoning (I guess, aside from personal enlightenment which is only evident to themselves).
An atheist cannot claim they don't believe in God based on faith, as the concept in and of itself would be paradoxical. They can however, choose not to believe in God based on evidence.
Thus, it's a choice.