Thank the Lord, it’s about time.
Just because some in the community are used to doing things a certain way “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” doesn’t make it right.
FFRF states its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. In my view, more local governments and public school systems need to be reminded that government cannot endorse any particular religion. We as Americans cannot be forced to pray; nor can we be forced not to.
We are free to pray in our homes, attend religious services at any house of worship — be it a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple — and even say grace over a meal at any restaurant. The issue here is not to prevent Christians from practicing their religion, but to prevent public school employees from pushing their particular religious views on their students when on school grounds or during school-sanctioned events.
In the complaint made against the Walker County school system, FFRF has expressed concern over whether coach Mark Mariakis allegedly led students in prayer, or pressured them to attend faith-based camps. I believe the foundation wants to ensure public school employees do not coerce students to pray, whether it be in the classroom or on a football field.
If you want your children to pray in school, send them to a private school of your choice. Do not expect children of many different faiths — or those being raised without religious instruction — to pray in the name of the majority’s god in a taxpayer-funded school.
My children attended public schools. Most of their teachers were understanding when they had to be absent to observe a non-Christian religious holiday. But not all. So, I had to speak up. I had to rock the boat.
There was one time when my son’s (eighth-grade) rec football team prayed with their coach on the field. I happened to arrive late to his practice that day; he’d gotten a ride with a friend. My son stood to the side in his uniform, while the rest of his teammates knelt in a circle in prayer. Christian prayer. He wasn’t exactly coerced, but he was definitely excluded.
My colleague, Dennis Norwood, who reports for our sister paper, would have you believe atheists and other non-Christians would — in a sense — proselytize their “unbelief” and have Christians turn away from the tenets of their faith. That’s nonsense. It’s fear-filled rhetoric that leads to inflaming people’s passions and gives rise to bigotry. We non-Christians are not out to prevent anyone from practicing religion.
Let me say this; I am a believer. I am a Jew. And if you want to talk real religious persecution, well, my people are experts.
By the way, Dennis, I do not lead a sad existence just because I don’t believe as you do. Nor do any of my friends, be the progressive protestant Christians, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Wiccan, Shamanic, Agnostic, Humanist, Atheist or whatever.
Like Dennis, I too regularly attend worship services. I have attended Torah study and other religious classes offered at my synagogue. I pray each day and celebrate Jewish holidays and lifecycle events. But I am still not comfortable with invocations at public school games or commencements, or before government meetings.
And although Dennis might be looking forward to his arrival in paradise, I’m in no hurry to greet my dear departed loved ones in the afterlife.
Heaven can wait. Life is to be lived here on earth, to constantly improve oneself and leave a legacy of good works behind when the final sleep does come.
Denise Etheridge is the assistant editor of the Walker County Messenger and can be reached at email@example.com or 706-638-1859.