Law Allows Prayer In Public Schools


The organization American Atheists is fuming over a bill in Mississippi known as the RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINTS ANTIDISCRIMINATION ACT.

From their website:

Last Thursday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 638, a bill requiring public schools to develop policies allowing students to pray over school intercoms, at assemblies, and at sporting events.

“This is an overt act of hostility against minority religious beliefs and atheists, disguised as religious freedom,” said David Silverman, President of American Atheists. “This is not religious freedom; it’s open and proud bigotry, and the people of Mississippi should be ashamed of their legislature and governor.”

American Atheists’ founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair started her fight for the separation of church and state with a lawsuit about the issue of prayer in public schools. She started American Atheists soon after in 1963. It remains American Atheists’ position that students, faculty, and staff should not be forced to listen to prayer.

While students and faculty have always had the right to pray privately, requiring schools to develop these policies is a clear attempt to force prayer into public environments where students are required to be present.

American Atheists advocates for the complete separation of religion and government, and prayer over intercoms and at assemblies and sporting events is an indisputable and barefaced violation of separation of religion and government.

Clearly, they’re overreacting. HB 638 reads as follows:

Each school district shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the district treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on  an otherwise permissible subject. A school district may not discriminate against a student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.

Students may organize prayer groups, religious  clubs, “see you at the pole” gatherings or other religious gatherings before, during and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups. School districts must provide religious groups the same access to school facilities for assembling that is  given to other noncurricular groups without discrimination based  on the religious content of the students’ expression. If student groups that meet for nonreligious activities are permitted to advertise or announce meetings of the groups, the school district  may not discriminate against any group that meets for prayer or  other religious speech. A school district may disclaim school  sponsorship of noncurricular groups and events in a manner that neither favors nor disfavors groups that meet to engage in prayer or religious speech.

The policy regarding the limited public forum must require the school district to:

State orally or in writing, or both, that the student’s speech does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the school district.  The school district disclaimer required by subsection (d) must be provided at all graduation ceremonies.The school district also must provide the disclaimer at any other event in which a student speaks publicly for so long as a need exists to  dispel any confusion over the district’s nonsponsorship of the student’s speech.


HB 638 is common sense legislation that protects religious students from discrimination. It doesn’t force religious viewpoints into public schools; it protects the rights of students to bring their viewpoints into public schools, whatever those viewpoints may be (provided they’re not obscene or lewd). Simply put, the bill brings a measure of equality into the public schools.

So what is the problem? Are religious students expected to relinquish their First Amendment rights at the door? Or does the First Amendment only protect atheists? I cannot fathom a reason for this objection. It seems baseless and arrogant.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on them. Maybe American Atheists isn’t an arrogant organization, but a stupid one. Maybe they think the First Amendment reads “freedom FROM religion” rather than “freedom OF religion.” Who knows?



Related Post: This is a Democracy, not a Theocracy


  1. As with other activists they must skew the issue in a way as to create a problem where none exists. Otherwise they’d get little support outside their own whiny adolescent foot-stomping lip-pouting atheist support groups. It seem that the idea of a religious person being allowed to voice their views causes hyperventilation, and stress.

  2. paynehollow says:

    I fully support kids having the right to pray in schools and have meetings amongst themselves, including religious meetings, as long as the freedom is there for Muslims, Christians, Jewish folk and others, consistently.

    I do not support having prayers over intercoms, at assemblies or sporting events. I’m not terribly worried about it, but I don’t support the notion.

    I mean, consider: Quaker kid gets his turn at the assembly and he prays for God to restore justice and bring peace and stop the war-mongering sinners who promote unjust wars. Then the conservative kid gets up and he prays that God BLESS our nation for engaging in wars. Then the Muslim kid gets up and prays that allah stop the Imperialist Army from killing innocent Muslims… do we really want to foster that sort of environment?

    I like what Jesus said: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Creator, who is unseen. Then your Creator, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    I’m not terribly worried about public prayers – as long as it’s equal opportunity – but I just don’t think hashing out our religious differences in school meetings is the best place to do that.

    Now that this is a law, I would strongly encourage the “minority religions” (FSM, included) to actively take their turn, praying their own sincere prayers, and see if that doesn’t put an end to things quickly.

  3. I thought the first amendment covered this. “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof (religion)”. It seems like this new law is consistent with the constitution.

  4. Dan,

    The bill would not allow obscene, lewd, or overtly offensive material. Situations like that would be stopped for all groups, I’m sure.

  5. “American Atheists advocates for the complete separation of religion and government…”

    The concept of government neutrality toward religion is a myth. Atheism, secular humanism, naturalism, scientism, are all religions. What American Atheists insist on is government to be completely separated from theistic religion. By insisting on that separation they force the government to embrace their non-theistic religion.

  6. Note this bit from Dan Trabue:

    “Then the conservative kid gets up and he prays that God BLESS our nation for engaging in wars.”

    In what alternate universe is this likely? Apparently Dan is into demonizing these days. In a post below, he goes out of his way to suggest that John, or conservatives in general, believe ALL blacks to be stupid for some blacks voting Democrat. Now, he suggests that conservatives hope God blesses our nation for engaging in wars. He had to have gone arm pit deep to pull that one from his backside. Must be his idea of “grace”.

  7. Actually there is an separation between church and state otherwise government would turn to the church for some approval like some European nations. Atheist resist any source that deals with God. They are the only people debating about his existence while theist and other religious groups don’t.

    • Ytauma

      Where can I find this idea of separation in the constitution?

      • Within the first amendment in article 6. However you must remember the history of why congress passed such thing. The church had power in Europe but was corrupted by 1600s. Therefore to avoid such a case, therefore our founders develop this article. Nevertheless anyone with power can be corrupted regardless of who they are.

  8. Ytauma,
    The idea of the 1st A. was that there would be no state denomination as there were in Europe. Depending on the country, Romanism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism and even Anglicanism were the state churches and if you weren’t a member of those you were persecuted.

    In America, the Christian faith was to be recognized as the religious belief system, but no particular denomination was to be given official sanction to where it ran the show.

    Chief Justice Joseph Story (1811-1845 on the SCOTUS) stated this:
    The real object of the amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy [i.e. a denominational council] the exclusive patronage of the national government.

    This is why throughout history, until about the early 1960s, you see the Christian faith expressed in every aspect of the government, including teaching it in the public schools.

  9. ytauma,

    The phrase “separation between church & state” does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. This First Amendment reads:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The “separation” phrase comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association. It reads as follows:

    To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    Th Jefferson
    Jan. 1. 1802.

    Liberals like to take Jefferson out of context, so let me provide to you the letter Jefferson was responding to.

    Sir, Among the many millions in America and Europe who rejoice in your election to office, we embrace the first opportunity which we have enjoyed in our collective capacity, since your inauguration, to express our great satisfaction in your appointment to the Chief Magistracy in the Unite States. And though the mode of expression may be less courtly and pompous than what many others clothe their addresses with, we beg you, sir, to believe, that none is more sincere.

    Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.

    But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.

    Sir, we are sensible that the President of the United States is not the National Legislator and also sensible that the national government cannot destroy the laws of each State, but our hopes are strong that the sentiment of our beloved President, which have had such genial effect already, like the radiant beams of the sun, will shine and prevail through all these States–and all the world–until hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the earth. Sir, when we reflect on your past services, and see a glow of philanthropy and goodwill shining forth in a course of more than thirty years, we have reason to believe that America’s God has raised you up to fill the Chair of State out of that goodwill which he bears to the millions which you preside over. May God strengthen you for the arduous task which providence and the voice of the people have called you–to sustain and support you and your Administration against all the predetermined opposition of those who wish to rise to wealth and importance on the poverty and subjection of the people.

    And may the Lord preserve you safe from every evil and bring you at last to his Heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Glorious Mediator.

    Signed in behalf of the Association,

    Neh,h Dodge } Eph’m Robbins } The Committee Stephen S. Nelson }

    Source Letter of Oct. 7, 1801 from Danbury (CT) Baptist Assoc. to Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Wash. D.C.

    As you can see, Jefferson was responding to concerns that government would involve itself in matters of religious practice and doctrine. Much like Obama tried to do with Catholics….

    In no sense can the First Amendment or the Jefferson letter be used as justification to disallow school prayer.

  10. Just like I disagree with “tolerance” because it is defined to reject absolute, transcendent, objective truth, I reject the concept of separation of Church and State as defined by today’s secular humanists.

    I do believe in a concept of sphere sovereignty where the Church and the State have different spheres of authority given to them by God. The State is not sovereign in the Church’s domain and the Church is not sovereign in the State’s domain. Today’s secular humanist version of separation of Church and State makes the State the sovereign over all.

  11. DogTags,

    And notice how one’s view on gay-rights is almost a litmus test in academia, a world infested with secular humanists. To openly oppose same- sex marriage and abortion is totally unacceptable.

  12. I believe that “wall of separation” was meant to keep the gov’t out of religious business, but not to keep religion out of gov’t. That is, to reject any proposal, expression or opinion due to its Scriptural origin is not in line with Jefferson’s sentiment, or that of the 1st Amendment. By this I mean that what also must be considered is whether or not a proposal has value apart from its Scriptural source. Consider murder. We don’t need to consult with Scripture to decide we want to outlaw murder. There are reasons for doing so that exist apart from Scriptural prohibitions. But to satisfy Scripture (or more exactly, God) is a poor reason to reject outlawing murder

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