Republicans and the Public School Prayer Myth

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 07:11 pm

Do what I say; not what I do.

Christine O’Donnell says we need more Jesus in schools to keep kids from killing each other. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Anthony Barbaro, who in 1974 went on a shooting spree while listening to Jesus Christ Super Star.

“We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we’re having weekly shootings practically,” she told an audience in August 1998 on ABC’s “Politically Incorrect.”

A year later that intellectual giant, Dan Quayle, who claimed the Columbine shootings occurred because we’ve turned our schools into “value-free” areas. Quayle claimed (while failing to give his son one) that children require “a moral education, but the legal aristocracy has obstructed their ability to receive it. It started nearly four decades ago with the outlawing of school prayer.“ 

Expert on Bringing Children Up Without Values

Living Medieval Relic Pat Buchanan agreed saying “God and the Ten Commandments and all moral instruction have been removed” from public schools.

Pat Buchanan. Lying Morality Expert

Of course, neither she nor Dan Quayle nor Pat Buchanan operate in a vacuum and this is a common cry on the right. But it is reasonable to look at the people making those most fuss.

I suppose it’s the school’s fault then that Quayle’s son turned into a person with a broken moral compass and who pretended to have children he doesn’t have in order to get a few extra votes. Of course, his daddy will ever have his name associated with lobbyist Paula Parkinson thanks to an ill-advised vacation package in 1980 so maybe sin doesn’t fall far from the tree in the Quayle home.

Let’s put that down to a lack of prayer in schools too. Apparently life was perfect and we lived in a Utopia before Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962) and School Dist. of Abington Twp. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).

And Pat Buchanan must be old enough to remember prayer in public schools but Pat lied to the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, claiming to know nothing about dirty tricks performed by the Republican administration on Democrats.

On the day O’Donnell opened her mouth, Bill Maher and his guests were dismissive of her claim. Interestingly, though tolerance has been proven to be beneficial to society, even essential to the modern liberal democracy, she took the opposite stance, claiming that, “My point is there are consequences to our actions, and if we as a nation tolerate sin, generations to come will reap the effects.”

Sounds like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Let’s blame the Pagans or Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, the sin we must be sure not to tolerate is the sin identified as such by the likes of Christine O’Donnell. And keep in mind, Christine apparently doesn’t think it’s a sin to lie.

Or to lie about lying. She’s clearly in good company with Dan Quayle and Pat Buchanan, which all leads you to wonder what qualifies is morality in the Republican Party. Sure, you will say, Democrats lie too and you’d be right, they do. But the Democrats are not the ones running on a morality platform, preaching something they clearly do not believe in, insisting we all follow a set of rules they themselves have no intention of following. One set of rules for us, another for them.

Ironically, O’Donnell is a pro-gun candidate. She even garnered NRA endorsement this month for her Senate run. The NRA says she “will be a strong voice in fighting ongoing efforts by anti-gun politicians to dismantle the Second Amendment.”

Yeah, you know, I might guess that guns are more responsible for school shootings than lack of prayer.

This is the problem with the morally fixated Republican Party. They connect with the base but they don’t connect with facts very well – Stephen Colbert’s old “Reality has a liberal bias” complaint.

It does. Reality does have a liberal bias but that is only because liberalism is not seeking to impose dogmatic truths but rather relies on empirical evidence to show us how the world works. By adopting a dogmatic, ideological position and insisting on its truth regardless of the evidence, Republicans are courting trouble.

Because most of us do live in a fact-based world.

We’re not entitled to our own facts, as Al Franken reminded his GOP colleagues. And we’re not. There is only one science and there is one set of facts for everyone. The laws of physics apply equally; the universe works as it does across the board, without exception, and it does not brake for dogma. Nor can dogma legislate what form reality takes.

Totalitarian regimes, who, incidentally, take the same authoritarian stance the GOP has hung its hat on, have tried that road and come up short every time.

They would all do well to remember the lesson of Persian King Xerxes, who learned when he ordered the Hellespont scourged with 300 lashes for destroying his bridge that temper tantrums by mere mortals won’t change the reality of what the sea is.

These Republicans must be blind to the fact that Christians commit crimes, that the history of Christianity is a very violent history. For them to prove their argument they must somehow prove that the world was a less violent place forty years ago when in fact the opposite is the case. The world has become less violent and that demonstrably thanks to the spread of liberal democracy, not increased prayer or the spread of Christianity.

If Christianity was going to wipe out violence it would have done so when all Europe was Christian and it was illegal to be anything else. This is not to knock Christianity; no other religion has managed to eliminate crime either, but it’s time to face the fact that public praying didn’t get the job done then and it won’t get the job done now.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

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