The new Republican leadership of the House and Senate has signaled that prayer may soon be returning to American public schools. And President Clinton has indicated his willingness to sign a bill authorizing prayer in the class room, saying that he has always supported student-led prayer. His concern is that the rights of the minority (the unbeliever) be protected in any authorization of school prayer. His concern is unfounded.
The Supreme Court decision of 1962 Engel v. Vitale did not prohibit school prayer or Bible study, but rather prohibited school-sponsored prayer: the state could not compose an official prayer or in any way aid any religion. The 1963 Court decision, Abington School District v. Schempp, placed emphasis on the purpose and primary effect of the prayer rather than on who authored the prayer. Abington School District v. Schempp prohibited the practice of opening the school day with a prayer or a devotional Bible reading, holding that both served to advance religion. However, the Court held that the Bible could be studied as part of a secular program of education. State misapplication of Court decisions (prohibiting meetings by Christian organizations when non-Christian organizations faced no such prohibitions) led to Widmar v. Vincent, in 1981. In Widmar v. Vincent, the Court ruled that in instances where state university facilities are available to student groups of all kinds, equal access must also be given to religious [Christian] student groups. The Equal Access Act of 1984 extended the Widmar analysis to public secondary schools. And Board of Education v. Mergens in 1990 upheld the equal access principle, allowing students to form groups for Bible discussion, to share Christian fellowship, and prayer together.
The logic of these decisions is sound: any prayers advocated or endorsed before impressionable children, by individuals holding positions of authority over such children, serve to proselytize and removes from parents their responsibility for raising Godly children. The charge in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it," is directed to parents, not schools. Both the rights of Christian parents and the responsibility remains--Christian parents are held accountable by God for the upbringing of their children. And this is a responsibility that cannot be handed over to the state anymore than can the consequences of failure to carry out this charge. Citizens, not the state, suffer from the moral decay of our society. In reality we are the state.
Prayer is putting before God a petition in accordance with His will, and fully expecting results. And prayer in accordance with God's will is the tool whereby we exercise responsible stewardship over the dominion God has given us. Genesis 1:26 thru Genesis 2:3 tells us that after having labored for six days, God entered His rest leaving us fully in control over all He had created. As God's steward, Adam gave names to every beast of the field and air--names that are used to this day! Hebrews 4:3-11 tells us that God remains in that rest today, but we experienced failure in our charge to subdue and have dominion over the earth when Adam and Eve fell prey to Satan and were forced to leave the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3: 1-23). Further, Adam's provision which had previously been provided by God, would now be realized only with continued labor. Nevertheless, God crafted a way to restore us to our rightful status as His stewards--this is accomplished by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord. Having accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and being restored access to the Father through Jesus, parents should not now hand over such a powerful tool to those who may not have or recognize their interest in accomplishing God's will. Prayer is our tool for accomplishing God's purpose. We should never give it up! /SS/QBstores