Prayer Amendment Not About Religion But Who Has Power

From the Mesa Tribune, Sunday, June 7, 1998, Page A2:
By: Hal DeKeyser, Staff Columnist

Wherever you happen to be reading this, try this little experiment. Close you eyes for about a minute and ponder whatever strikes your fancy, then come back to me.

Did anyone notice you do that? Did anyone care that you tuned out momentarily? Think you could do that pretty much just about anywhere you please?

Your dutiful congressmen, at least four our of six of them, want to amend the Constitution, something we've only done 27 times in more than two centuries, to "guarantee" your right to do just that. The constitutional amendment, which got 61 fewer votes than the two-thirds majority needed, would have allowed organized prayer in schools, religious symbols on public property and tax money used for religious activities.

Among the 224 representatives who thought that was a peachy idea were Republicans Jim Kolbe, John Shadegg, Matt Salmon and J.D. Hayworth. Voting no were Republican Bob Stump and Arizona's only Democrat under the dome, Ed Pastor.

Stump said he believes "true voluntary prayer" already is protected by the First Amendment, something you have just proved with your own moment of silence.

God doesn't need you to recite a rehearsed ditty with your friends to hear you, and no one on the planet can stop you from communicating that way.

Hayworth and Shadegg's take on the situation is that judges have pushed too far the other way, and there is hostility toward the publicly religious. Shadegg said he wanted to send that message.

There is some of that -- probably more jumpiness about it than hostility, but the effect is the same. These days kids can't sing "Silent Night" on public property at Christmastime (which schools now call "Winter Festival") for fear of either getting sued or hassled. So we wind up with teachers afraid to talk about things such as the religious aspects of the civil rights movement, which was central to it, or even the circumstances of our founding that laid the groundwork for the First Amendment guaranteeing religious freedom. Now that's your classic cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Salmon nailed the crux of the issue. The Constitution is clear, he said, and he doesn't want "a public schoolteacher educating my child about who God is." Pastor worried about eroding the separation of church and state.

For some reason -- could it be that he's the religious right's darling -- Salmon voted to amend the Constitution to do exactly what he reasonably feared to "clear things up." How that might happen is anyone's guess.

The key quote in this whole campaign came from Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition, which has put this at the top of their list: "We've always believed our influence should be commensurate with our numbers."

It seems apparent that is the true goal of the people pushing this legislation. It's not so that they can pray to God. Anyone can do that, any time. It's so they can make everyone else do the same -- according to their strictures.

Amending the Constitution to allow organized rayer in public schools would allow the regional majority religions to force prayers determined by them. That is why we have the Bill of Rights -- to protect those who think differently from those who would shove their beliefs down your throats. It's that old saw that democracy without individual rights is like a pack of wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

The worst news in this attempt to legislate religious correctness is what it means about who's running the Republican Party . . . and who's running scared in it.

Instead of the limited-government fiscal conservatives who can protect us from the proclivities of free-spending Democrats, we have big government extremists intent on devising an Orwellian hell under their sole control.

Which of those two would you rather trust with the reins of power?

You can close your eyes and pray again.

Hal DeKeyser is editor of the Scottsdale Tribune.
Go Back to Shy David's Coerced School Prayer Page.