Friday, July 11, 2008

Separation of school and Church

I’ve told y’all a little about the culture I grew up in, so just for shits and giggles I decided to list every violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause that occurred during my schooling (the ones I remember, anyway)

· My high school only stopped having prayer over the intercom in 2000, when the supreme court ruled against prayer at football games

· In 5th grade, the Gideons brought Bibles to my class. The teacher stressed that we didn’t have to take them, but it is still illegal to distribute them.

· In Jr. High, a few teachers gave extra credit for attending talks at churches or other large-scale religious activities that had no educational component

· There was an official prayer at my high school graduation

· In home economics class, we were forced to write a paper on why abstinence was the best prevention for teen pregnancy, even if we supported comprehensive sex ed and birth control use

· The Christian club in Jr. High gave a play during school hours. Arrangements were made for students who did not want to attend to congregate under supervision in another area, but in practice, many teachers did not fool with letting the one or two objecting students per class go to the other area.

· On a Jr. High school-sponsored Spring Break trip, prayer happened before meals on several occasions.

· We had a Bible History class that was not critical or neutral, and we used a textbook created for Christian schools

· We had a party in Bible History and the teacher prayed before we ate

· In High school Pre-Calculus class, there was a student whose father died. He decided to come to school anyway for emotional support. Our teacher led the class in prayer with him.

· I got in trouble with the school counselor, and she spoke to my dad at church instead of having an official school conference. (This may not technically be a violation, but I think it’s unprofessional)

· Local youth ministers visited the school during lunch to eat with their students (this isn’t technically a violation, but in practice, they were more freely given guest passes than other groups)

There are probably many more…


aaron said...

but if your an atheist, you dont believe anyway, right?

so why are you bothered? shouldnt they have a right to do whatever they want? after all, the majority beliefs, your a MINORITY.

worth thinking about?


Microbiologychick said...

Absolutely not!
The first amendment says that the government shall not have an establishment of religion. A public school is a government entity and cannot show a preference to religion. The amendment exists to protect the minority.

aaron said...

so if you majority of the school attendance believe in god, they should not be allowed to worship because an extreme minority, YOU, dont believe...

yes, i agreee completely, that makes SENSE. and why not let homosexuals, criminals, child rapist do whatever they want, as they are a minority. you should have no right (as the majority) to prevent these people from doing what they feel like.

atheist logic i guess.


Microbiologychick said...

Who said the students could not pray and worship? We had clubs, prayer in the halls between classes, all kinds of things. That is perfectly fine.

However, when the school or representatives of the school like teachers, make religion mandatory, or show preferential treatment, that is illegal. If students pray in groups, that is freedom of association. If a teacher leads a prayer during a mandatory class, that is showing preference for religion and forces a student who does not have these beliefs to become part of that prayer/worship because he has to go to class, it isn't optional like a Christian Club.

What is right and fair is not based on mob rule. The majority is not allowed to trample on the rights of the minority. They are not allowed to use the government to unduly support their religion.

aaron said...

are you saying that the school is FORCING you to pray during these times?

then you can go to court, of course.

but if it is simple a class praying, you have the cohice NOT TO PRAY, and hence, no more problem. in the same way other student have the right to participate or not participate in these prayers.

are you FORCED to pray or not? or is it simple that you dont like the fact of religion and you want to give an excuse to complain? remember, try be intellectually honest, itds your choice not to pray together with the others. if you feel you have to, perhaps you should consider your position as an atheist, maybe it feels rights to pray? maybe you just trying to give excuses to ignore god?


Anonymous said...

Ok, you just don't get it.

A school, as a taxpayer-funded government entity cannot promote religion at all. No one can force you to pray, but you money goes to fund that praying and tacitly endorses relgion. What if it was a Muslim prayer that you had to bow for every morning? You might not actually have to pray to Allah, but you would have to give some respect or endorsement by bowing. It is the same thing if a teacher leads in prayer. By the teacher being an authority over the class, you are forced to participate, even if you don't actually pray in your heart.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I had to post as anonymous because I can't get this computer to accept my password, but this is Microbiologychick.

Shane said...


If prayer is an institutionalized part of education then in a way they are forcing you to pray. Of course, you could opt not to, but this will ostracize you and have negative social consequences.

Just imagine you were going to a Muslim school where three or four time everyone gets out their prayer rug, faces Mecca and prays for a few minutes. How would that make you feel? Would it make you uncomfortable?

Are you being FORCED to pray or not? Or is it simply that you dont like the religion of Islam and you want to give an excuse to complain?

Would you rather the school not use everyone's time on this, and instead Muslims are free to pray on their own time but educational time for everyone is spent only on education? Or are you just trying to give yourself reasons to ignore the prophet Muhammad?

Shane said...

Ah, you beat me to the Muslim analogy while I was typing.

Joe McCraw said...

Wow Aaron. Your comments reveal a scary proposition for our school system.
Prayer has no place in school.
Freedom of Religion must include Freedom from Religion.

aaron said...

my questoin was simple: ARE THEY FORCING TO TO PRAY?

what does islam have to do with anything? why are you derailing from the main topic?

the majority IS RELIGIOUS, you say they should NOT be allowed to do their pray because YOU dont want it.....

are you so blind or do you pretend? you have the choice NOT TO JOIN!!!!


Microbiologychick said...


When they do it in a mandatory class, instead of an optional meeting, you are forced to join in, or at least tacitly endorse it! You do not have the choice if it is officially promoted by the school.

llewelly said...


what does islam have to do with anything? why are you derailing from the main topic?

You're clumsily avoiding the issue precisely because you know the Islam example is directly analogous to school prayer situation Microbiologychick described in her original post.

P.S. : Go read the constitution. It's perhaps a few grades above your usual reading level, but it's well worth the effort.

The Pensive Poet said...

All of the following comment is direct at Aaron:

"my questoin was simple: ARE THEY FORCING TO TO PRAY?"

Yes, it is a simple question. They answered it very well, and you did not understand it.

"what does islam have to do with anything? why are you derailing from the main topic?"

Since you did not understand the answer to your question, they had to resort to using analogies to illustrate the point

"the majority IS RELIGIOUS, you say they should NOT be allowed to do their pray because YOU dont want it....."

You are apparently a moron. It has been pointed out several times through the course of this discussion that microbiologychick as well as all of the others do not care if prayer takes place. But when these people are getting the message from a government agency that a certain type of behavior that has no legal standing (id est prayer) is better than the non-action (that is, no prayer), it makes one feel unwanted. It makes those of us who do not prefer to pray feel like second-rate citizens.

"are you so blind or do you pretend? you have the choice NOT TO JOIN!!!!"

Whether or not any person chooses to join in the prayer or not would not have any bearing on microbiologychick's opinion that prayer is not for her. Nor would it change the fact that she was getting a government-endorsed message saying that Christian prayer is correct.

Now I pose the question to you; are you such a moronic imbecile that you cannot understand the simple discourse laid out before you?

Greg Reich said...

The Supreme Court ruled in Abington v. Schemp in 1963 that prayer is not allowed in schools. Aside from that fact (and it is an important one, considering that it is the Court's job to interpret the Constitution), what educational purpose does prayer serve? The answer? None.

Furthermore, even before the Fourteenth Amendment applied the restrictions on Congress in the Bill of Rights to the States, conflicts between Catholics and Baptists made adherents to these two religions support keeping religion out of the classroom wherever there was a significant population of either group. In the mid 1800s, the Catholics and the Baptists entered into violent conflict over a Bible brought into a public school. That conflict lasted for three decades, with animosity between Baptists and Catholics, and mostly with Irish Catholic immigrants being persecuted.

Next, consider that all religions are minorities. Every single sect is a minority sect. Catholics (thanks to immigration programs bankrolled by the Catholic Church) are the most numerous, but still do not constitute a majority in the United States. Do you (aaron) want Catholicism taught in schools, simply because they're the most numerous, or would you rather have public school be neutral ground, where religious and nonreligious children alike can go to learn subjects that have nothing to do with religion? Personally, I'd like to see religion stay in the churches and the private homes of adherents.

Finally, the truth about religion in the United States is that only thirty-seven percent of people are actually religious. According to the American Religous Identification Survey of 2001, the remaining sixty-three percent are either "somewhat" religioius or not religious at all, with the latter category representing fourteen percent of the country. In other words, for around fourty-two million people, religion isn't part of their lives, and for another 147 million, it's not a high priority. According to a head-count study done by sociologists in 1999, where Gallup was reporting that forty percent of people in the United States attend church on a weekly basis, the results of the study contradicted the self-reporting of Gallup's respondants and demonstrated that only about thirteen percent of United States citizens go to church weekly. The majority certainly does not want religion as part of their weekly routines; why would they want it daily?

I'm sure that more students would speak up if they felt empowered, but standing up against authority just isn't in most people. Nobody wants to stand out. I stood alone in not saying the Pledge of Allegiance when I was in high school, and I hadn't even identified myself as an Atheist yet--it was because I had learned that there was a 1943 case where the Supreme Court said that requiring children in public school to recite the Pledge violated their free speech (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette). What they were doing was illegal, and so I protested by sitting down and saying nothing while everyone else recited the Pledge like robots.

In any case, prayer has no place in school. It teaches children nothing and has no appreciable effect on anything, according to a Mayo Clinic study and other studies done on the efficacy of prayer. Students may pray silently in school if they feel the need--no one is stopping them.

Max Havok said...

Aaron.. goodness.

There are a wide variety of places where your understanding of the subject is blatantly incorrect.

1. In the US, our Constitution does NOT grant the majority the right to trample all over the minority. To put it into an analogy, you have two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for dinner. The Constitution says "sheep is not on the menu".

2. I have no idea how you arrived at the conclusion that this article was against prayer and practicing religion. Granting the children extra credit for going to church for an unrelated reason (even a related reason is still questionable) is discrimination based on religion. Seeing as how public schools are federally funded, they have to abide by very strict rules regarding discrimination, for a very good reason.

Your analogy comparing atheist, child molesters, criminals, and homosexuals is, at very best, pathetic and irrational. I suppose you are in favor of slavery? First of all, homosexuals commit NO crimes except for the ones you pretend they are making. Two consenting adults means no problem. Child molesters and other criminals broke the rules that the society has defined, that we have agreed upon, because the things they do hurt people and their property in a real, tangible way. I am astonished that you would honestly post your opinion to a blog when you are simply ignorant of the subject.

Lastly, "atheist logic" is apparently better than the intellectual sewage you has posted so far.

3. Offering students special treatment because of their religion does not concur with laws regarding discrimination. If both students are on the verge of failing, and one student goes to church while the other does not, this is discrimination. Are you going to try and argue that there is something about going to church that makes the theist student more deserving of a passing grade?

And if I wanted to pray, I would, but I'd rather not spend 30 minutes talking to the ceiling; I'd rather be doing things that are actually effective.

4. In the case I presented above: Yes, the student is forced to go to church if they want to pass.

The majority IS allowed to pray, and practice their religion. But when you give people extra bonuses based on whether or not they pray or go to church or believe in God, you are crossing the line. Again, however, the Constitution does not allow the majority to do whatever they want to the minority. Simple as that.

Laurie said...

Kudos to you, Microbiologychick, for being soooo patient with Aaron. I don't think I would have been...

Microbiologychick said...

I find the exchanges amusing, if a little trying. I don't believe in banning him unless he starts prsonal attacks.

aaron said...

4. In the case I presented above: Yes, the student is forced to go to church if they want to pass.

so why are you sitting here, why dont you go to court and sue them? you can get millions, as you will obviously win, right? and you can use this money to fund other liberal ideas? maybe open abortion clinics or gay-houses? maybe shelters for pedophiles?


aaron said...

added: i heard about students who HAVE to accept the theory of evolution to pass, Whats the difference?

Microbiologychick said...


My parents are christian, my culture was Christian. I could not sue the school. There is a high cost to pay for suing, just because a person cannot pay that doesn't mean the school is justified.

Nothing about atheism necessarily endorses "liberal" ideas. You can be a pro-life, anti-gay marriage atheist.
Pedophilia is wrong, period. There may be a few isolated atheist child molestors, but contrast that to the wide-scale cover-up perpetuated by the catholic church.

If a student has to accept the theory of evolution to pass a class, that is wrong too. However, accepting it and merely learning it are two different things.

Max Havok said...

Aaron, if you think that abiding to the Constitution is a "liberal idea", you are profoundly ignorant. Please, actually learn about these things before you talk about them, because as you wouldn't know, intelligent discussion can be a lot of fun. Please, please, please learn about these sorts of things before claiming any stance on them.

It IS possible to sue the school for that, or at the very least, get the teacher fired.

Also, I've already gone over the problem with pedophilia, but you have decided to be ignorant.

As for your second post responding to my complete obliteration of your comments so far: That is because evolution is SCIENCE. It is not a religion. Because it actually has evidence to support it, because it is useful throughout all fields of biology, because it has predictive powers, because we can test it, because it can fund itself with discoveries it makes, etc.

Humanist Mama said...

Hi Atheist girls :)

I just found your blog and I LOVE it! I recently had a similar conversation with some Christians about the separation of church and state and a teacher's free speech. Reading this brought back the frustrations I had in my conversations with them :)

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I see aaron the troll is really busy on this post. No religion in public schools period. Freedom from religion is as much a right a freedom of religion. If you want your imaginary sky daddy go to church or a religious school.Ex Patriot here

Mary Elaine said...

Nothing you say, or will ever say, is worth thinking about.