EDITORIAL: Is religion in public school good or bad?

Lariat Editorial Board

The idea of holding prayer in a public institution is an issue long debated in cities across the nation.

In an ongoing lawsuit involving the South Orange County Community College District, Westphal v Wagner, the court said the college district is within its right to hold invocations during public events. This means the district has the right to hold prayers during events pertaining to the college.

Many people are on conflicting sides when it comes to the practice of prayer in a place such as a college. A news report from The Virginian Pilot said that the Virginia House of Delegates passed a law allowing people the right to pray on public property. This included such places as public schools and according to Delegate Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, “the people’s right to pray and recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed.”

On the other end of the spectrum, practicing prayers in an environment such as school or the workplace can cause some form of discomfort and even unsettle those who practice a different religion. America is a melting pot of people from all different cultures, ethnicities, and beliefs. The country is predominantly Christian and the Forefathers were raised in a faith-based environment. However, times have changed and now there are numerous people practicing different religions and mingling together.

A moment of silence is an alternative way to pay respect and unites people from all different backgrounds without causing as much tension. However, the act of holding a moment of silence can also be deemed tricky. A Jan. 14 article in The Huffington Post had all of the public schools in Illinois reissue a moment of silence during the beginning of the curriculum. This sparked a debate all over the nation in regards to the action being passed off as prayer. Previously, the Illinois state legislature passed the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, which made schools in the state observe a moment of silence before starting the day.

In spite of the controversies connected with the idea of prayer in a public institution, people should have the right to practice their respective religions. In 1947, the case of Everson v Board of Education was heard in the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Hugo Black held a decision in regards to the practice of religion in public places.

“…No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance…In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.”

The issue of splitting church and state is an ongoing issue that will continue to last. People from religious backgrounds believe that since America was founded on Christian values, then U.S. citizens must adhere to those values and at least acknowledge their significance in society. On the other hand, some people believe that church and state must be firmly separated in order to have all people’s rights preserved.