Author Topic: Prayer in school  (Read 957 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Prayer in school
« on: February 25, 2011, 08:46:08 PM »
I recently saw an old CNN clip where 3 very religious people argued unanimously against the idea that atheists are discriminated against and that we are actually the ones who are intolerant.  One of them blamed us for the removal of prayer in schools and I wondered whether that was factual - as you would hope from a news organization - or whether it was urban legend.  Here is what I found.

The removal of prayer from school began in 1943 with the SCOTUS case West Virgina State Board of Education v Barnette.  This case overturned a previous ruling whereby the courts said a school could compel students to salute the flag and recited the pledge of allegiance even if it was against their religious beliefs.  The case was brought to court by Jehovahs Witnesses.
theists 1
atheists 0

The next stop was 1948.  McCollum v Board of Ed.  This was huge.  It said publicly funded schools could not engage in religious instruction.  It tested the separation of church and state.  McCollum was an atheist and won the case.
theists 1
atheists 1

This was followed up in 1952 by Zorach v. Clausen.  This allowed religious instruction during school hours provided it was not done on school grounds or with public money.  This did not have a huge impact, other than to affirm McCollum. 
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atheists 1

1962, Engel v. Vitale.  At least as important as McCollum. It decided that states could not compose prayers and require their recitation in schools.  The group that brought suit was made mainly of Jewish organizations.
theists 2
atheists 1

1963, Abington School District v. Schempp.  Edward Schempp (not to be confused with Shemp Howard) was a unitarian universalist who sued Pennsylvania because the school forced children to read from the bible as part of their education.  He won in the lower courts, but the state appealed.  When brought to the SCOTUS, this suit was consolidated with Murray v Curlett.  Murray, being Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Murray was supported by several jewish and xian organizations.  The big decision from this was "...no matter the religious nature of the citizenry, the government at all levels, as required by the Constitution, must remain neutral in matters of religion "while protecting all, prefer[ring] none, and disparag[ing] none". The Court had clearly rejected "the contention by many that the Establishment Clause forbade only governmental preference of one faith over another""  ¾ of the case was brought by theists.
theists  2.75
atheists 1.25

1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman.  Forbade public funds from financing private religious schools.  It also established how to determine whether a law is breaking the establishment clause.  I have found no information on the plaintiffs, much less whether they were religious or atheist.  The best I can find is an unreliable and ubiquitously repeated "Alfred Lemon was the ACLU" attorney. This identified him as "Alton Lemon".
theists 2.75
atheists 1.25

1980, Stone v.Graham.  Forbade the ten commandments in classrooms.  The Lemon test was applied an failed on the first prong - the legislation was not for secular goals.  Stone was one of a group of parents bring suit.  the best I can find on Stone is a well referenced term paper that says he was a unitarian from the ACLU and the group of parents were of a range of faiths - an atheist, a quaker, a jew and a catholic[1].   3/4 were religious.
theists 3.5
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1985, Wallace v. Jaffree.  Moment of silence is religious in nature and cannot be enforced in schools.  Jaffree was a lawyer and appears to have been an atheist, but I am not 100% sure.
theists 3.5
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1992 Lee v. Weisman  held that prayers led by religious “authorities” at graduation violated the separation clause.  Principal Robert E Lee (yeah, his real name) invited a rabbi to speak and invoke the benediction at graduation.  The Weisman family objected, sought a restraining order, lost and had to sue.  It was a surprise victory in the supreme court since many assumed punk justice kennedy, who never liked Engle or Abington, would vote against separation.  But he voted for it. I cannot find whether the weismans were atheists
theists 3.5
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2000 Santa Fe Independent School Dist v Doe  held that student led prayers before football games was unconstitutional.  The suit was broght by mormon and catholic families.
Theists 4.5
Atheists 2.5

So remember, the next time some xian gripes about atheists ruining everything and getting prayer kicked out of school, let them know the majority of the suits and landmark suits were by theists. 

Any other related cases, whether they were brought by atheists or whether the people I could not track down were atheists is welcome.



 1. Kuntz, Paul Grimley.  “Article: The Ten Commandments on Schoolroom Walls?  Why Did the Supreme Court Reject the 1978 Kentucky Statute (Stone v. Graham)?  Could Such a Law Succeed?”  9 J. Law & Pub. Pol’y 1 (1997)
« Last Edit: February 25, 2011, 08:49:17 PM by screwtape »
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Offline pingnak

Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2011, 08:54:50 PM »
My similar research similarly indicated that the PLAINTIFS in most of these cases were Christians who are being forced to do things by OTHER Christians.  Pray the 'wrong' way, or being marginalized using public address systems owned by schools. 

When Christians tell you about how JESUS should run Amerika, even as a Christian, you have to consider what KIND of Christian they mean by 'Christian', because historically, that means ONE kind of Christian.

Just as in the Middle East, usually ONE kind of Islamic (i.e. Sunni vs. Shiite) gets to tell everyone what 'god' means, and what 'god' means is that the controlling kind is always right, and the other kind is always wrong.

So if the Evangelicals have their way and make this into the United States of Jesus, you Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, etc. should keep in mind where your place will be: right here next to us Jews and Atheists and Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus. 

Because you're the 'wrong' kind of Christian.

Offline pingnak

Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2011, 08:56:26 PM »
And everyone will get along fine in the United States of Jesusland.  Just like the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Offline LadyLucy

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2011, 09:24:43 PM »
Oh, the case of "MY FAITH SECT IS BETTER THAN YOURS! ONLY WE DO IT RIGHT, NOT YOU! YOU GUYS DON'T BELIEVE ENOUGH, SO YOU GUYS ARE HEATHENS!". Very interesting, screwtape. :)


Offline urs

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 01:19:48 AM »
Nice work, Screwtape. +1

Offline bosey926

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 02:49:10 AM »
     The last case referenced reminds me of high school.  Our football coaches tried to make us do that team prayer shit before every game.  Pissed me off so bad...it is what made me 'come out' of the atheistic closet.  Right before the first game of the regular season(I think).  I think I talked about it in my testimonial. 
     It was amazing to watch so many homophobic, sexist, idiots kneel and hold hands in compressions and pads.  So humorous looking back.  Man do I wish I had a camera. &)

Online Nam

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 02:34:11 PM »
When Christians tell you about how JESUS should run Amerika, even as a Christian, you have to consider what KIND of Christian they mean by 'Christian', because historically, that means ONE kind of Christian.

Like in New York in the mid to early part of the 18th and 19th century it was the Evangelicals[1] telling the Catholics how they should act in public schools 'cause back then each state had their own hold of what religion controlled their individual government.

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 1. or the Angelicans, I forget
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

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Offline pingnak

Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2011, 03:51:10 PM »
Lots of examples, historic and contemporary. 

ONE version of the religion takes over the politics, and EVERYONE ELSE is put on the sideline.


Offline changeling

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2011, 08:16:10 AM »
When Christians tell you about how JESUS should run Amerika,

Luk 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay [them] before me.

Yep, sounds to me like Jesus is the kind of person that I would
like to run America, NOT!
The level of dumb they have to sell, is only made remotely possible by the level of flocking their sheep are willing to do in the name of rewards for no thought. quote: Kin Hell

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Offline pingnak

Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2011, 02:00:33 PM »
Well, that's 'allegorical'.  They mean, like 'comedy roast'!

Until they mean literally burn us at the stake.

Offline xphobe

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2011, 02:42:43 PM »
Thanks for that, Screwtape.  This will come in handy.  +1!
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2011, 12:17:34 AM »
Very good Screwtape. +1 from me too. But how can we use what you posted when conversing with theists? It contains actual information. They're all allergic.  :)
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline Ivellios

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2011, 03:53:20 AM »
Very good Screwtape. +1 from me too. But how can we use what you posted when conversing with theists? It contains actual information. They're all allergic.  :)

They wish to remain ignorant of the truth and base every opinion and they way they live their whole life based on the way someone tells them the way they're "supposed to" live their life. Anything that contradicts what someone standing up in front of hundreds says while getting their ego stroked looking upon thier mindless sheep and getting paid for it, they don't want to hear it, so they don't. There's one of you, hundreds of them, there isn't any way they could possibly be wrong. You don't read from a book that is pro kidnapping and rape for guidance and morality. You have to wait for a point in thier life where they start to question what they've been taught. I know exactly how they think because I, unfortunately, was one once.

Those that have a brain, that once you can show overwhelming evidence and facts that what they've been taught is a lie, them you can turn. The mindless however, of which the vast majoriety seems to be, will reject facts outright and there's nothing you can do or say to convince them. The bible says the earth is flat, so the earth IS flat. Such is religion.

Another thing, every sect of christianity believes they are the OneTrueChristian™ which means of course that everyone else is a satan worshipper. Showing a Southern Baptist that something was brought forth by mormons or jehova's witnesses, they will only say, "Ah Ha! See? It WAS an atheist satan worshipper that did this!" The oxymoron is lost on them.

Offline wiseclam

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Re: Prayer in school
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2011, 06:16:36 PM »
Nice summary!