Public prayer is quite a hot topic in the news lately. One developing case deals with a sports coach in this nation who was recently disciplined for praying on the field after the game. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-football-coach-prayer-20170823-story.html
Many saw this discipline as an attack on his freedom of speech. Interestingly, there was no public broadcast of the prayer compelling others to join in. Apparently, the fact that student athletes were welcome to join in prayer with him was perceived as a conflict of interest in his office of authority. His detractors queried, “Will other students who don’t join in the prayer face reprisals?”
If abuse of authority is ever the issue in such cases, then of course there should be investigation and appropriate correction . But is the concept of separation of church and state the only operative involved? What about freedom of speech supported by our constitution? And what about the Declaration of Independence that clearly evokes the importance of our nations foundation being established on the concept of free rights flowing from a transcendent Creator. The Declaration was a founding document…more so than the Jefferson letter that contains the phrase “separation of church and state”.
If abuse of power is not taking place, then should we be throwing the baby out with the bath water? Should people be prevented from praying to God in public because they are leaders in a school or lead in other capacities? People of faith believe that God should be invited into a public declaration that together we are entrusting our lives and affairs to a higher power. This act evokes an eternal justice system that we will all be held accountable to, and encourages us to interact with fairness and justice for all. That is why we put our hand on a bible when we are sworn into public office or when we are a witness in a court case. Just as our founding fathers joined in public prayer to humbly commit to God a new nation and its future, Christians continue to believe that we should gratefully continue that tradition to corporately invite God (a transcendent spiritual source from whom we believe all good things come) to be our protector, provider and ultimate judge.
Because Christianity has long been a majority religion in this nation, some believe that persons of other beliefs are minimized when we pray because prayers will then stem from our Judeo-Christian heritage. (This heritage is a natural outcome of Christian Europeans being predominantly the first settlers to establish this Great Nation.) Christians believe that their faith was the driving force behind our nation’s survival and success. Christians contend that we are minimized when we don’t pray…privately or publicly.
Many years ago, one court’s solution to this dilemma was simply to remove prayer from public schools. https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/education-expert-removing-bible-prayer-public-schools-has-caused-decline
Yet we notice that prayer has continued in city halls as well as state and federal capitals across this nation. Scripture can be found all over our nations public local, state and federal buildings. Everyone may not agree with this reality, but it cannot be denied…nor considered incidental. People of faith believe that when God is removed, literally and symbolically from schools and other institutions, there are natural as well as spiritual consequences. One natural consequence of prayer’s removal, in the case of our schools, is that children are not being taught the purpose that prayer played and still plays in our nation. Our founding fathers determined that prayer was instrumental in the early history of the United States…enough so, that they included prayer in their first public meetings and set the tradition which was upheld and has continued to this day. So in all the current contention, is it impossible for either side to see the validity of other positions? Is there not possible common ground to be conceded?
One solution, arrived at in diverse communities, has been to celebrate all people and their beliefs. Instead of silencing sincere acts of faith through prayer, should we not be acknowledging the benefits of people aspiring to higher spiritual awareness? Is prayer to be feared? I would contend that sincere prayer should be applauded. It has merit and should not be thrown out of public discourse as though it has played no major role in humanity and in our nation throughout history.
What do you think?