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Keep the Church and State Forever Separated

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Essay title: Keep the Church and State Forever Separated

Keep the Church and State Forever Separated

Perhaps no aspect of the church-state controversy arouses more emotion and discussion than the subject of prayer in the public schools. After all, public schools are supported with taxpayer money. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates the government’s neutrality between belief and nonbelief. Educators and administrators who facilitate our schools--may not lead children in prayer or force them to pray a certain way. However, all children have the right to pray voluntarily before, during, or after school, and nonreligious children do not have to pray at all.

Public schools exist to educate, not to convert. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive. Religion is private, and schools are public, so it is appropriate that the two should not mix. The schools are supported by all taxpayers, and therefore should be free of religious observances and coercion. It is duty of parents and churches to instill religious beliefs, free from government dictation. School prayer proponents mistake government neutrality toward religion as hostility.

Proponents of so-called "voluntary" school prayer amendment (such as the one proposed in 1995) are admitting that our Constitution prohibits organized prayers in public schools. The radical school prayer amendment would negate the First Amendment's guarantee against government establishment of religion. Worst of all, it would be at the expense of the civil rights of children, America's most vulnerable class. It would attack the Bill of Rights, which safeguards the rights of the individual from the tyranny of the majority.

School prayer supporters envision organized, vocal, group recitations of prayer, daily classroom displays of belief in a deity or religion, dictated by the majority. Those in the minority would be forced to a religion or ritual in which they disbelieve, to suffer the humiliation of submitting to a daily religious exercise against their will, or be singled out by classmates and teachers as "evil" or "sinners" for not participating.

Until the 20th century, only Massachusetts required bible reading in the schools, in a statute passed by the virulently anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party in the 1850's. Only after 1913 did eleven other states make prayers or bible reading required. A number of other states outlawed such practices by judicial or administrative decree. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt spoke up for what Roosevelt called "absolutely

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