Prayer in Public Schools an Essential Right – Except for Muslims

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Apparently it’s ultra-super important for Christian kids to be able to pray at school but not so much for Muslim kids. We’ll get to that in a minute; first let’s make clear how the whole prayer in school thing works.

It’s not that kids can’t pray, no matter what the Religious Right tells you. They can. They just can’t do it with the support of the school, because that’s a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The “public school prayer myth,” fueled by Christian fundamentalism and embraced by Republican political theology, rears its head just about every day somewhere in the country even while regularly ordering graduation ceremonies to be held in churches. But that’s gist for another article.

It might be remembered that on June 17, 1963 Abington Township School District v. Schempp (consolidated with Murray v. Curlett), 374 U.S. 203 (1963) declared school-sponsored Bible reading in public schools in the United States to be unconstitutional. In 1962, Engel v. Vitale, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York school district was in violation of students’ First Amendment rights by requiring that they pray in the classroom to start their each school day.

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Again, it did not ban school prayer or “kick god out of schools” as has been claimed by the Religious Right. As Charles C. Haynes of the First Amendment Center writes, the ruling “requires that teachers and administrators neither promote nor denigrate religion — a commitment to state neutrality that protects the religious freedom of students of all faiths and no faith.”

But just as disagreeing with a fundamentalist is seen as persecution of that fundamentalist, so equality is seen as an attack on Christianity. The New York Times September 28, 1996, reports that one view is that “it was the Supreme Court decisions restricting school prayer and Bible reading in the classroom that truly ignited the religious right as the 1960-s began.”

And they have been making hay off it ever since.

So let’s look for a moment at reality rather than fundamentalist fantasy: Christian kids can pray, and if Christian kids can pray, so can Muslim kids, right?

Wrong, say those American Talibangelicals who would lead us around by our penises and vaginas.

Ya’ll remember the whole “special rights” thing for gays, right? Well, turns out letting Muslims pray in school is a case of special rights too. Cause if those poor Christian kids can’t pray, then damn if you’re gonna let those Mooslims!

Again, Christian kids can pray in school but reality is never the issue for Religious Right fear-mongering. Rick Perry even says he will put school prayer in the U.S. Constitution! Gingrich says he would do the same thing and even the supposedly anti-government interference Ron Paul says he supports a constitutional amendment that allows voluntary school prayer (it’s already legal, Ron).

This story takes us to the wilds of Pennsylvania, where, as the AU’s blog Wall of Separation reports,

In the West Shore School District near Harrisburg, Pa., some parents have been getting pretty angry that Muslim children might be allowed to pray during school hours – even though it hasn’t even been confirmed that any students are actually praying.

(Cue audible gasps and cries of dismay)

It turns out Bill O’Reilly is to blame for all this – sorta. As AU relates the tale,

The “controversy” apparently arose when a district parent was on WHP 580 with talk radio host Bob Durgin and claimed that a multicultural awareness training session at West Shore included a discussion of Muslim prayer in schools.

Durgin, a right-wing agitator and Bill O’Reilly wannabe, went on to do several shows on the topic, and apparently he touched a nerve with some listeners.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports that “one woman who called the newspaper said she thought Muslim students had received special privileges.” (Cue the “special rights song and dance”):

“It’s accommodating one religion in lieu of all the others,” she said.

Why? Because, she said, kids can’t sing religious songs at holiday concerts. Only problem is, they sang “Ave Maria.” You can’t get much more religious – from a Christian standpoint – than that. They also sang the Christian hymn “In Dulci Jubilo.”

Cue the inevitable Facebook diabribe. Says AU:

Another woman who posted about this issue on a Facebook page claimed students are “not even allowed to say God in school,” according to the Patriot-News. If that were true, it would violate federal guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Education.

But as AU reports, this isn’t true: Leena Sharif, a Muslim freshman last year at Red Land High School in Lewisberry, “wanted to pray five times per day at set times in accordance with Muslim tradition.”

Leena asked if she could be excused from class to pray because she felt it would be a distraction to other students. A school guidance counselor told her she couldn’t.

Far from being granted “special rights” Leena Sharif had to withdraw from school to become a cyber student.

Of course, if Leena had been a Christian the Religious Right, supposedly all about our “religious freedoms” would have been all over this and her’s would be a household name. But she’s Muslim, so she was ignored and if a Muslim kid wants to pray, suddenly it’s a case of “special rights.” As AU says,

But when some students want to do the exact same thing the Right has advocated for, except those students pray to Allah instead of God, those same zealots throw a fit. That is pretty much the textbook definition of a hypocrite.

That’s the religious freedom defended by our fundamentalists: Christian rights to privileges not enjoyed by others – the very definition of special rights because only Christians have them.

30 Replies to “Prayer in Public Schools an Essential Right – Except for Muslims”

  1. Point of clarification: Arabic-speaking Christians ALSO pray to Allah
    IT’S THE ARABIC WORD FOR GOD!!!

    Seriously, look it up if you don’t believe me……

  2. Point of clarification: Arabic-speaking Christians ALSO pray to Allah, Arabic speaking Jews pray to Allah, and yes, Muslims, pray to Allah.

    IT’S THE ARABIC WORD FOR GOD!!!

    Seriously, look it up if you don’t believe me……

  3. The Christian Right think they have these rights because they’re…er…right. no poop. Plenty of psychological research shows that this is a salient trait of right-wing personalities. That is the very reason they can’t be trusted with authority.

  4. Mitt Romney’s HYPOTHETICAL response: “I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. In my presidency I will build a Christian Prayer Corporation (CPC). It will be for the 1%, and those students who have been most successful (that means money for you net-net folks) will be in the 1%. The CPC will go in and buy all the prayers and the rights to prayer. It will restructure school prayer (with a fine fee to myself, of course). The CPC will send prayers of/for students of any other religion, those who don’t really care about praying in school (they are just envious anyway), or those who don’t have enough money to buy their right to prayers overseas where their prayers can be performed cheaper.”

  5. Education is the only answer, as well as love, to our future with the Fundementalist Reich.

    The worst part about this “re-structuring” is that Fundie-born children are being indoctrinated by delusional fanatics.

    I believe the children raised by hard-core fundamentalist have never known who they are; they have been molded, bred into little religious persona personalities who “disciplined” to eat, sleep, breathe the indoctrination of fundamentalism. I firmly believe that if you got one of these kids alone for 10 minutes, they would “crack” from the discovery that they have NO freakin’ idea who they are except what they’ve been told. It’s sad…watch “Jesus Camp”; the kids have no context outside the delusional fear and fantasies of Satan is everywhere!

    Also, there are video clips on truthdig.com as evidence of fundies indoctrinating children to not believe in evolution. The one speaker tells these innocent children that the word “dinosaur” cannot be found in the bible, so therefore, it’s a “new” word (like computer or jet airplane) meaning dinosaurs didn’t exist at the same time people existed, therefore we couldn’t have evolved from apes…because it isn’t in the bible…same circular illogical game. (Yet the have plastic dinosaurs at that “Creationist Museum” showing children playing with dinosaurs like they were pets…huh???)

    One of the videos, a boy of 7-8 is interview who says, “When I run into a non-christian on the street, I immediately know who they are and feel icky”…what kind of street smarts is that? These kids are taught to feel repulsion upon meeting those different than themselves! If they actually “liked” you, they would be very conflicted inside, as in, hate themselves like Haggard hated “gays”…this creeps me out!

    The only hope is, that when these glossy-eyed “Children of the Christian Wrong” finally come away from the corn fields and enter reality, they won’t hurt themselves from all the self-hate they have been predisposition to feel if/when they don’t hate non-Christians!

    A reality based-education is the only answer, my friends (as well as love) for our future; not prayer in schools for only those who love a certain kind of Jee-suss or monotheistic god.

  6. The subject always brings me to mind of the fact that parents don’t want to be the conveyers of their own religion to their children. While working down here in Tennessee with one of those people, a southern Baptist, I asked her what the big thing was with praying in school when the child should be doing it at home. She replied it was to get their foot in the door. Evidently the fact was that they wanted schools to be teaching Christianity fullbore alongside anything else that is taught. Therefore taking the responsibility away from the church and the parent and throwing it on the teacher.

    On the other hand I have befriended an Indian family here in Knoxville and I occasionally have to go to assist them with various things. The family is Hindu and perfectly capable of teaching their children their religion. But at the same time should a nine-year-old girl and it 13-year-old boy who are Hindu have to be subjected to Christian prayers when they go to school in the morning? I happen to know the both children say their prayers before they go to school and their parents are an integral part of that. They go to school fully prepared for their day. Incidentally the 13-year-old boy is very intense about school and is already an honor student and probably three grades ahead of his peers simply because his parents instill the need for education in them.

    I know the southern Baptists could care less about their children learning Christianity in school, they just want to make sure it’s done there and that their religion gets honorable mention over anything else.

  7. I’d say they’re right in saying that dinosaurs didn’t exist at the time people existed, except that I’ve read an article recently that indicated that birds are now considered a descendant branch of the dinosaurs.

    I encountered the indoctrination every semester. Some of the kids (young adults actually, but acted like angry kids) had also been programmed to aggressively attack anyone who mentioned evolution in an educational setting – to the point of having to be thrown out of classes for disruption (maybe a couple every semester, but it seemed that over time their preachers learned what classes to avoid and we saw less and less of them). The most common statement I heard (as I mentioned before) is that all the kids had learned about evolution was that “It was a plot to destroy Christianity”.

    BTW… I do know that the preachers, if the kids are close enough to home to keep going to that church, DO tell the kids what classes to take and what classes and professors to avoid – all of the ones who really emphasize critical thinking (and thinking for one’s self) and taught evolution and didn’t tolerate the brain games.

  8. I have to say that I agree with the school systems stance on this. While I don’t really care if a kid prays in school, they shouldn’t do it at the detriment of others. A kid shouldn’t be able to speak in tongues like a holy roller and a kid shouldn’t be excused 5 times a day to kneel to Mecca. it’s called homeschool. That’s where the Fundies Muslim or Christian, should be going to school if they can’t take a 8 hour break away from their religion in order to facilitate an education.

  9. …”I’d say they’re right in saying that dinosaurs didn’t exist at the time people existed…” I would say they are “correct” in a scienc-ee sort of thingie non-thinking way because there actual premise is “if it isn’t in the bible, it did not exist/happen”; yet, the Creationist say the earth is 5000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs hung out together…they can’t seem to keep their story line straight, which means, they are very vulnerable if they find themselves in a situation where they are “forced off script” as in thinking for themselves.

    It’s sad to know that students attending “secular” colleges are told what to take and by whom in order to avoid going “off-script”, beter known as thinking…however, many of them have too much curiosity and will knowingly “sin” they will be forgiven later. It goes with their mind set–Satan pulled them into that classroom, just like Geraldine Jones when the “devil” pulled her into the dress shop to buy that dress.

    You can always do your own “recruiting” and dare them to go to a non-scripted class and listen in…they can blame the devil later…

  10. the 5 to 6000-year-old Earth this so hugely funny that it’s hard to keep from laughing at people that believe this. Just think of the people being educated this way and the questions they will have by the time there were years old.

  11. One of my neighbors, a woman about my age, pitched a fit when she learned I’d taught evolution, and insisted that she was a young earth creationist and the earth was only 6000 years old (and us scientists were lying to everyone). She also homeschooled her children, which makes me shudder to think what they believe.

    The only good thing is that they’re now not talking with us (because of evolution)… which means a lot of the over-the-fence preaching has stopped.

  12. I look it at this way… they’re demanding the external practice of religion – physical and verbal prayers, etc.. (I wonder for whose benefit they are doing so.) They need to learn and practice the INTERNAL aspect of faith… and in doing so, they’re praying (and whatever) as they are in class learning.

  13. Seriously, if you think that Christians pray to Allah you have no idea about Christianity nor Islam. Your statement is ridiculous.

  14. Christianity, Muslim and Judaism are Abrahamic religions, all three technically worship the same God but with slightly different principles. The name of the god in question may be different but the God itself is the same.

  15. And you’re an ignorant and ethnocentric idiot.

    I’d bet that you think Jesus is His real name and that He spoke English.

  16. Because Pastafarianism isn’t an Abrahamic religion. Allah is literally the same guy as Jesus’ dad. He’s the guy that used a miracle to make Mary pregnant with Jesus. Allah is literally just a foreign word for the same guy.

    He’s kinda like Batman. There’s all sorts of different cannon and people might disagree on the specifics, but Batman is still Batman*.

    *Yes, I know, but still.

  17. I can not agree more with what you said. IMHO, The core teachings of all these three religions are fundamentally the same, ironically, all of them have some hardcore fundamentalist who use the religion for their gain. They just simply ignore the very essential part of the religion: ‘Love’ and ‘Learning(education)’.
    Danial

  18. Yes, this is true. However, as with most religions, even within Sunni and Shiite sects, they fight and kill eachother. Kind of like how the Irish and Northern Irish kill eachother over the Catholic vs. Protestant debate. In religion, it’s not the big things that get people violent, it’s the really small things. I never got that though.

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