Photo of the Day

From Part I of Alan Taylor’s year in photos:

Orich Florestal (left), 24, and Rosemond Altidon, 22, stand on the edge of their partially destroyed apartment of Port-au-Prince January 9, 2011, close to the first anniversary of the earthquake that killed around 250,000 people and wrecked much of the capital Port-au-Prince in 2010. (Reuters/Allison Shelley)

School prayer

Came across this piece earlier this week, but as Sunday is a good  day for things religiously-minded…  Anyway, this was written in response to Rick Perry’s absurd gay-bashing ad, which also implied that we don’t allow kids to pray in school:

But whatever one’s position on the politics, his most recent ad violates an Biblical edict — the one about false witness. You can watch the ad here. And here’s the transcript:

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school…

I admit, he’s not alone in making his error. The Associated Press’s analysis of the ad was critical, but also veered off the tracks and into the legal abyss.

Wrote AP political reporter Beth Fouhy: “The Supreme Court prohibited school prayer in two landmark decisions in 1962 and 1963, calling it an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.”

Which is sooo close to being correct. The court actually prohibited mandatory school prayer. And that one word makes all the difference. (See: Twain, Mark on lightning-bug vs. lightning.)

The truth is that kids pray in schools and on school grounds all the time. Many surely do it silently before the math midterms. But they also pray very publicly, in organized events. They do it plenty in Rick Perry’s Texas, as a matter of fact…

So what’s prohibited? Mandatory prayers. Prayers during instructional time or official school events and led by a teacher or other school official. Prayers during classes or school events that are officially sanctioned by the school or school officials. Any proselyting by teachers, school officials, or other adults brought in by school officials during the school day or during official school events. No posting for “moral guidance” of the Ten Commandments (or passages from the Bhagavad Gita, for that matter).

It’s amazing the number of people that just don’t get this.  Actually, I suppose not when you consider that even AP reporters don’t get it.   Many of my students seem honestly surprised when I explain this to them in my intro class.  Hopefully, that’s at least 150 new people a year or so, who actually understand policy on prayer in schools.  I always like to relate the time I saw a teenager in church wearing a t-shirt that said, “I broke a rule. I prayed in school.”  I so wanted to go up to her and explain how wrong her t-shirt was, but, since I’m not a sociopath, I just tell about seeing the shirt.  In the end, so long as politicians like Perry demagogue the issue and reporters don’t know any better, this mis-belief isn’t going away anytime soon.

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