I remember an old saw about prayer in school, saying that it never left because anyone taking a test still prays.
This stems from the 1962 (!) ruling by the Supreme Court that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
More on that in a minute.
Back in the day, there was prayer time in schools across the nation, along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Steven Engel got his nose out of joint, and sued, and lost each case and appeal, with judges saying that the prayer offered by the Union Free School District and said by teachers and students each morning was not anything like the government establishing a religion.
Then the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court, which said it did, cause the framers of the Constitution were aware of the religious persecution in England and sought to keep the same from happening here.
Since that time, there were attempts to offer quiet time or some sort of way to allow everyone to be happy and pray or not.
Fast forward to 2022, and here we are once more.
Coach Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job at Bremerton (Wash.) High School for praying on the 50-yard line after games. The school board said it was policy to not promote religion to students, and when Kennedy kept up the practice, they placed him on leave.
Now, we do the conga line through court after court, each one putting their spin on this admittedly convoluted issue.
Throughout the decades following the 1962 case, there have been other noteworthy cases of a similar stripe, and this one is no different, but I can’t help wondering why it’s even an issue. In all of these matters, the people involved have just wanted to send thanks, praise and maybe ask a little help from the Almighty. In no case, as I’m aware, was it a specific god, but even if it was, why does it matter?
As I read the actual text of the amendment, it says specifically that government shall make no laws establishing a religion, so insisting that a coach kneeling at midfield and thanking God for a good game where everyone played well and weren’t hurt doesn’t track as being a government creating a law establishing a religion.
Moreover, telling a coach he can’t pray because of policy seems more like a government actually prohibiting the free exercise thereof, if you take my meaning, and reading that part literally says to me that the government, in this case the school board, is way in the wrong here.
It’s also necessary to note here that there were no complaints filed with the School Board, it was just the board got wind of it and laid the smack down. The coach sued, and here we are.
I can’t see any ulterior motive here regarding the text of the amendment, which incidentally includes speech, the press, assembly and redress of grievances. Imaging the stretch the courts would have to make to rule those unconstitutional.
Opponents of the Second Amendment have long used the literal, specific text of the gun law as the argument against allowing U.S. citizens in good standing to own handguns. That same interpretation, however, doesn’t seem to be in play here, and I’m thinking that it should.
One part I see as well is that the amendment states that Congress shall make no law …; at what point did Congress legislate, and the president approve, a coach in a high school in Washington be the standard bearer for a state religion? There is no law that exists that I know of. Federal government has no business being directly involved in local school matters, and in this case, it isn’t, so the whole fuss about prayer is a non-starter.
This case should never have existed, and here’s hoping that the Supreme Court reads the amendment as it was written, and thereby tossing the whole thing out and telling the interested parties to concern themselves with real problem.
Prayer is not now, nor has it ever been, a problem, certainly not one for the courts.