Before they changed the Pledge of Allegiance to include “under God” we had a prayer at the start of each school day. If I remember correctly, the teacher read from the scriptures, too. Then, in the early ‘60s a successful battle was waged to no longer allow prayer in public schools, which prompted the additional phrase in the pledge.
Few people will deny the foundation of the United States was built on Judeo-Christian principles. The writings of our founding fathers include many references to God. Our currency states, “In God We Trust.”
Each session of congress is opened with a prayer, our presidents are sworn in with a hand on the bible as they repeat the words “So help me God,” and important presidential speeches are wrapped up with “God Bless America.” This suggests that the government believes in God, but the schools should not allow students to acknowledge our Creator – the One who has given us the inalienable rights referred to in the country’s early documents. What is it that we’re trying to protect our children from? God?
Recently, the University of Maryland students and faculty voted to drop the invocation from their upcoming commencement exercises, even though great pains had been taken to make the prayer as innocuous as possible in an effort to not offend anyone. The president of the school overruled the decision, so the prayer stands. It’s been reported there are efforts to keep children from bowing their heads to offer a prayer before lunch or when they are about to take a test. As a pre-boomer, I asked myself, “Can this be happening in America?”
I believe a relationship with God is a personal thing. Each of us has our own unique understanding of God. Even if we learned about God from the same teacher, our perceptions may be quite different. So I must respect your belief, and I would hope you will respect mine. And, if you don’t believe in God, I will respect that too even if I don’t agree.
So why not take a minute before the school starts to pray, or reflect, or just take a deep breath and get balanced? Is this going to hurt one child? Is this forcing a particular religious belief on anyone? Is this a good way to start the day? You bet it is.