May 29, 2013

Prayer in School: All Eyes on Mississippi

Historic Wechsler School in Meridian, MS
Historic Wechsler School in Meridian, MS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The first post in this series asked why silent prayer isn't sufficient. The second examined a few of the reasons I believe we should be determined to keep school-sanctioned prayer out of our public schools. Now I want to take a closer look at the logistics of implementing the new Mississippi law designed to encourage school prayer and the many perils it entails.

The Mississippi law attempts to bypass the illegality of school-sanctioned prayer by having the students do the praying and accompanying their prayers with a ridiculously transparent disclaimer that their prayers are not school-sanctioned. Let's take a look at how this is likely to work.  

Who is going to do the praying?

 Students from Southern Baptist families, of course! After all, we have very little religious diversity here in Mississippi, so I can tell you with a fair bit of confidence that these are the students who will be doing most of the praying. There may be some conservative Methodists from time to time, but it will mostly be the children from Southern Baptist families.  

How will they pray?

They will pray in a very public and sectarian manner. The Mississippi law permits these students to pray over the school intercom system, at school assemblies, and at assorted school functions. We are talking about amplified public prayer here. And you better believe that Jesus will be mentioned quite a bit.  

How is this possibly not school-sanctioned?

The students' prayers will be accompanied by a brief disclaimer about how the prayer is theirs and is not sanctioned by the school. Never mind that they are using the school intercom, speaking at an official school function, or that they were given permission to do this by the school. You and I are supposed to be fooled by this disclaimer.  

How is this possibly legal?

It is legal because the state of Mississippi passed a new law, to take effect on July 1, saying it is legal. As of July 1, it will likely remain legal in the state of Mississippi until someone files a lawsuit challenging it. Those behind the new law have expressed their willingness to fight such a lawsuit, and they have the support of the Christian extremist groups that typically get involved in such matters.

Of course, the state could still come to its senses and decide not to implement the law. Mississippi coming to its senses? Did I really just say that?