Speaking of Life

School Prayer: It's Not Illegal

U.S. law allows students and faculty to pray at school all they want, but it also prevents them from making others listen to their prayers if they don’t want to.

(3.3 minutes)
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Biography:
Joseph Tkach

Joseph Tkach has been president of Grace Communion International since 1995. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Azusa Pacific University. For more information about him, click here.

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Have you seen the bumper sticker that says "Get Prayer Back into the Public Schools?"

This catchy little phrase might cause someone to think either that there is no prayer in [U.S.] public schools, or that prayer is not allowed in public schools. Indeed, a good many people seem to think that prayer in public schools is illegal.

But guess what? It isn't, and it never was. The law allows students and faculty to pray at school all they want, but it also prevents them from making others listen to their prayers if they don’t want to.

And that's a good thing. We need freedom of religion, but we also need freedom from religion, that is, freedom from any religion that we don't believe in imposing itself on us.

Public school officials are not allowed to promote or initiate student prayer, but they can assist students in organizing their own prayer meetings. School officials are not allowed to require unwilling students to participate in prayer, but they can give official support to student organized prayer activities.

Think about it. Do you want your child to be required to listen to the prayers of people whose religion you don’t agree with? Of course not. The law protects your child from that.

But the law also protects your child’s right to pray silently at school, and your child’s right to meet with others of like faith to pray openly together. The only thing the law won’t let your child or a school official do is require people to listen to their prayers who don’t want to.

It’s a good law. It protects your child’s right to pray and it protects your child from having to listen to the prayers of people whose religion you disagree with. That’s freedom, and we can thank God for it, because there are many places in the world where no such freedom exists.

It’s a shame that so many Christians have been told that prayer in public schools is illegal, when it’s just not so. It’s true that the football crowd can’t be required to listen to a game-opening Christian prayer.

But it’s also true that the football crowd can’t be required to listen to a game-opening Zoroastrian, Druid, Wicca, Voodoo or Santeria prayer. Yet students of any faith can meet and pray together in settings where others aren’t required to listen.

It was to obtain freedom from religious oppression that many people originally came to America, a place where they could practice religion as they wished without a state church oppressing them.

Let’s thank God for the blessings of freedom afforded in our Constitution, especially the freedom to worship as our consciences tell us.

God bless the United States of America!

I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of Life.

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