Coerced School Prayer Issue "Silly"

24 Aug 94 Excerpts from today's Mike Royko column:

"This [the prayer in school debate] has always struck me as being a silly controversy, since any American has the right to silently pray anywhere and anytime.

And if students were questioned and answered truthfully, many would admit that they pray in school on their own. They pray for all sorts of things: that the teacher won't ask them a question, that they stay awake, that the class thug will not torment them during lunch break, or that they fulfill their carnal desires with the cute thing in the next row..

But in some parts of this country, especially the South, many parents can't stop fretting and fussing because a teacher isn't telling their offsprings to bow their heads and ask the good Lord for something or other.

You would think these God-fearing folk would be content to have their children say a morning prayer in the kitchen before eating their grits. And they could lead them in prayer before dinner, during TV commercials and before they go to bed. And they can haul them to church on Sunday and have them pray and hoot and holler and sing and weep and wail and splash in water and cast out the devil and play with snakes and anything else they deem necessary for leading a decent life.

But for some reason, that isn't enough for them. They insist that a teacher should assume some responsibility for the spiritual growth of their little boogers.

That's never made sense to me. These parents don't ask the school bus driver to lead prayers. Or the truant officer, school engineer, crossing guard, school nurse or marijuana dealer.

So why ask a teacher to do it? A teacher has no greater theological standing than, say, a bartender."

...

"These parents, and the politicians who pander to them, don't seem to understand the potential for strife and chaos that [coerced] school prayer carries with it.

If [coerced] prayers were allowed, everyone would have to be permitted to pray to the deity of their choice. That means a student would be permitted to worship devils, demons, forest pixies, the moon, the spirit of Elvis or any other danged thing.

How would these parents react if their little darlin' came home and said: 'During prayer today, that Festus Dudd started praying real loud to Mumba, the lord of lust and dirty deeds. Then he pinched little Nell. Say, Pa, why can't we go to that church?'"

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