The Myth of Prayer-Free Schools

Have you ever been debating an issue with someone, and they have a fundamental misunderstanding of a key point vital to the argument, but no matter how much evidence you provide that they are arguing from a false premise, they cling to their wrong belief until you finally realize the debate is pointless?

Annoying isn’t it?

I love debate.  It strengthens my arguments, allows me to find weak spots, and clarifies my views.  Sometimes it can even change my mind on an issue.   But while there may be two sides to every issue, in most cases there is one set of facts.  If you enter a debate believing “facts” that are unarguably false, it is almost impossible to avoid having your entire argument consist of strawman attacks.  If you are intellectually honest, once these “facts” are shown to be false you will reexamine the issue and reformulate your arguments.  You may still be on the same side of the debate, but at the least you won’t be committing logical fallacies as soon as you open your mouth.  If you are less that intellectually honest, well…., how’s that cognitive dissonance working for you?

Unfortunately, some positions on assorted subjects seem to bring out the most intellectual dishonesty.  No matter how much evidence you show that they are arguing from a false premise, they stand there, fingers implanted in their ears, screaming “I can’t hear you! Nah, nah, nah!”  Most young-earth creationists, anti-vaxxers, and anti-church/state separation advocates, in my experience, fall into this category.

This will be the first in a series of posts here at Foster Disbelief pointing out some of the most common “facts” that aren’t facts.  Maybe you will see one that you believe here.  I hope it allows you to strengthen your own arguments.


The Ban on School Prayer!

How many times have you heard it?  Be honest.  “Our kids aren’t allowed to pray in school anymore!”  or “The Supreme Court, damn activist judges, took prayer out of our schools!”

Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a recent example of it today.

Robert Jeffress of the Southern Baptist Convention keeps up the long tradition of Christian right propagandists flat out lying about the Supreme Court’s Engel v Vitale ruling. The usual line is that the decision banned prayer in public schools (it didn’t), but Jeffress adds another layer of dishonesty by adding the word “voluntary” to the claim.

I believe there have been three explosive decisions by the Supreme Court in the last fifty years that have so weakened our spiritual and social structure as a nation that our implosion is inevitable. In 1962, Engel v. Vitale which removed voluntary prayers from the school, all of the decisions that have cascaded down from that decision that have made government not neutral but hostile to Christianity.

(Bold added for emphasis.)

Bullshit.  Ed has a excerpt from the ruling in his post.

Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment of any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools of the State at the beginning of each school day — even if the prayer is denominationally neutral and pupils who wish to do so may remain silent or be excused from the room while the prayer is being recited.

Students pray in school everyday.  They pray silently in their classrooms, they gather around the flag pole for student led prayer in the morning, no one is stopping anyone from praying in school.  The ruling bans the school, as a representative of the State, from requiring or composing the prayers.  It also stops the school from appearing to endorse a prayer, so no student led prayer during the morning announcements, or assemblies with a religious purpose.  Students may hand out religious literature during non-instruction time, may form religious groups, and religious groups may use the school building after school hours according to equal access laws.

The law bans the State, in the form of the school, from imposing or endorsing a particular religion on the students.  It does not stop the students from praying.  This is not a debatable issue.  It is a fact.

Up next: Is it really only the evil atheists who are against prayer in schools/government endorsement of religion?



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