Moment of Silence Not Good Enough for Exeter Union High School Christians June 7, 2010

Moment of Silence Not Good Enough for Exeter Union High School Christians

***Update***: There’s video of valedictorian Rebeccah TerHune giving her speech. At the 0:16 mark, you can hear a man scream out, “Rebeccah, Jesus loves you!”

When it comes to Prayer versus Moments of Silence in public schools, most Christians are smart enough not to endorse prayer. Not every student is Christian and you’re just asking for a lawsuit… it’s not worth the fight.

Moments of silence are trickier. The conservatives who push for it say it’s good for students to begin a day with “silence” (as if teachers wouldn’t want silence otherwise…?) but it’s really both a waste of time and a thinly veiled attempt at getting prayer-time into the classroom.

Recently, California’s Exeter Union High School administrators irresponsibly let students vote on whether or not a student could deliver a graduation prayer.

It was irrelevant, though, thanks to the work for church/state separation groups. The school board decided not to go through with any formal graduation prayers. They didn’t even bother counting the votes.

The school board made the decision after three organizations — Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Anti-Defamation League — sent letters to the district objecting to a graduation prayer.

Board President Larry Larson says the district can’t afford a drawn-out legal fight over the issue. He says the courts have ruled against prayer at graduation and he doesn’t want the issue to overwhelm the ceremony.

They could afford it if they knew were going to win. But it’s a losing battle. And Larson knows it. Was he trying to get away with breaking the law because he figured no one would notice?

The school board voted to have a moment of silence instead…

“It doesn’t really matter” if there’s a moment of silence instead of a prayer, Larson said. “The whole idea of the moment of silence is for the graduating class to contemplate what they have accomplished.”

“I want to have a prayer at the graduation. I think the Lord has blessed my time at high school,” [senior Anna] Unger said. “But I understand that’s the law now. We’re not going to change it. I guess a moment of silence is a good alternative.”

Of course they’re ok with silence, because to them, it’ll give everyone a chance to pray.

Literally.

Some Christians couldn’t stand not being able to pray out loud.

So take a guess as to what happened during the moment of silence:

(If you can’t see the video, go here.)

These people are pathetic.

They could easily have prayed before the ceremony. Or in their minds during the ceremony. But they don’t care about that. It’s not about their relationship with their god.

It’s about the show.

They don’t just want to pray. They want to pray out loud and they want to make sure everyone hears it.

They want to out-Jesu-fy everyone else.

Any Christian ought to be embarrassed by these people.

Hell, it’s not even what Jesus wanted:

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

(via Portland Humanist Examiner — Thanks to Micah for the link!)


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I think it’s such a shame people are so closed-minded that they can’t see anyone’s rights as valid but their own. Minorities have rights too, whether you like it or not!

  • 1. You can’t vote on whether or not to follow the LAW. Especially the Constitution.

    2. There is NO number 2. That’s it!

  • sarah

    “Your vote will go to judgement with ya!”

    “God is everywhere, he has to do with everything.”

    Oh dear.

  • Phoena

    If they are so damn religious, why aren’t they attending a religious school? Then there would be no problem with all the praying they want.

  • Matt

    Would have been fun to get a loud speaker and drown them out with a prayer to the FSM.

  • I’m honestly not surprised.

    You know, if someone was walking around talking to invisible beings, we’d get them psych help. But yet, if people talk to God, its called a miracle and a blessing.

    I honestly don’t see the difference.

    BTW, the embedded video thing is messed up 😛

  • Dan

    Let them fight it out in court, because this is CLEARLY more important than having the budget to hire teachers or provide services.

  • Video doesn’t seem to be embedded properly. Not working on either Firefox or IE.

  • plutosdad

    Wow I can’t think of a more perfect modern day example of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees.
    It’s like it’s out of South Park they are so comical.
    I can just picture it:

    Jesus: Do not pray as they do –
    People: You’re not the boss of me, Jesus! Whatever, I can do what I want!

  • Apparently they missed Matthew 6:1-6

    Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  • sven.f.pride@sprint.com

    It’s a shame these students haven’t been introduced to the true Pantheon. Instead of a following a masochist with no battle skills, we should be preparing for Ragnarok. In Thor we trust…

  • Stagamancer

    There are few times I wish there were a God, but these kinds of things make me. It would be so great if, once these people got to the pearly gates, St. Peter got to point out to them all their ridiculousness and hypocrisy. Alas, it is not to be.

  • More proof that public prayer isn’t really about worshiping God. It’s all about making a spectacle for everyone around you to show how religious they are.

  • I’ll echo what Jeff said about Matthew 6:1-6. But more angrily. Jesus f’n Christ when are these people going to pull their heads out of their asses and actually do what their infallible book says their Jesus f’n Christ told them to do?

    Ugh… sorry. I’m extra cranky today.

  • ckitching

    Matthew 6:1-6? Is that before or after the part where Jesus says that it’s easier for a rich man to get into heaven than to pass a needle through the eye of a camel?

  • Moments of silence are trickier. The conservatives who push for it say it’s good for students to begin a day with “silence” (as if teachers wouldn’t want silence otherwise…?) but it’s really both a waste of time and a thinly veiled attempt at getting prayer-time into the classroom.

    Your parenthetical comment made me smile.

    Also, I think you’re correct in suspecting that the moment of silence is just a way to disguise prayer. When I was a believer, I’d quietly pray whenever I wanted. I have never understood the need of some religious people to force everyone to pray with them.

  • Why aren’t they embarrassed about this? I don’t understand. Shouldn’t they be embarrassed about this?

  • Laura

    Years ago, Roger Ebert wrote a brilliant essay about “vertical prayer” and “horizontal prayer.” “Vertical prayer” is prayer that goes up; i.e., is between you and whatever you believe a supreme being to be. It’s not about anyone else and isn’t meant for anyone else’s ears.

    “Horizontal prayer” is prayer for the benefit of the people around you. It’s meant for their ears, no one else’s. It’s done to force in-group and out-group thinking. That’s what prayer in school — or before football games or board meetings or committee meetings or graduations or whatever — is all about. It has nothing to do with asking for guidance. It has everything to do with making sure the people around you know you’re a believer. It also has a lot to do with noticing who’s praying and who isn’t, and filing that information away for future use.

    Unfortunately, the essay has since been pulled off his blog and I can’t find it anywhere else. It is definitely worth reading.

    Laura

  • @Laura: Thanks for mentioning the article. I just searched for it and read it. (I think someone else posted it after realizing that it was no longer up on the original website.) Ebert makes a good point.

    Here’s the URL for anyone who’s interested: http://www.tedstrong.com/prayer-fanatics.shtml

  • Growing up Jewish, I’d never read Matthew before, and the excerpt that Jeff Satterley quoted reminds me of something that I was taught in religious education as a child. When you give tzedakah (basically, giving to charity), it is best to do it anonymously. In fact, I was taught that it is a mitzvah to give, but it is a greater mitzvah to give anonymously. Whether it’s true or not, I was also taught that many of the large “anonymous” donors to charities are Jewish, and they choose to remain anonymous as a result of this belief. I think there’s something to be said to give without expectation of any reward or recognition. It’s a shame that this tradition wasn’t retained by the Christians, despite Biblical text supporting it.

    Back on topic, though, I’m somewhat surprised that the ACLU of Northern California (I think that’s the district they’re in) didn’t at least sign the letter. They were probably busy battling Facebook over, well, everything.

  • Jon Peterson

    I’m depressed (well, sarcastically amused) that the ABC report continually refers to the decision as if the School Board “do away with prayer”, “eliminate prayer”, “ban prayer”, etc. It’s like they didn’t research the issue at all, and assumed that the Board had an OPTION to allow a violation of the Constitution.

    Actually, this IS ABC… so they probably didn’t research the issue. :/

    I have the same feeling about the parent stating “I think it’s awesome because it’s a tradition; it’s always been…”
    A tradition of violating the Constitution (do they actually have a history of prayer during public HS graduation ceremonies over there?) remains a violation of the Constitution, and thus illegal. ‘Tain’t “awesome” to do illegal things.

  • Cobblestone

    THE BIG LIE these people have gulped down is the notion that this is a “Christian nation.”

    It’s astounding how many supposedly educated people on the right say this as though it were true. That’s why I call it a LIE and not a myth—because they’re purposely deceiving people.

    Those who founded this country and wrote its constitution could not have been more explicit on this issue. One needs only to read their writings to see that secularism and religious neutrality was one of the foundational principles on which they designed the republic.

    Not to be a pedant, but if any freethinkers out there have not read Thomas Jefferson’s “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom,” I think it’s worthwhile reading. And it pretty much demolishes the notion that we were meant to be a “Christian nation.” Next time some idiot pulls that line on you, simply smile politely and direct him or her to this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Statute_for_Religious_Freedom

    The part that gives me goosebumps is when Jefferson writes:

    Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.

  • petit pois

    @Jon As a former grad of this high school (unfortunately), yes, we have been breaking the law for 18 years (if you count from Lee v Weisman). The “tradition” itself, though, is only 50 years old. My parents are older.

  • BoomerChick

    I’m all for a moment of science.

  • DSimon

    I agree with BoomerChick that a moment of silence (and I mean an actual moment of silence, not like the one in the video) would be fine. Yeah, so it’s just mostly an excuse for people to pray, but provided that there’s no actual pressure for people to pray, that’s just fine.

    A moment of silence is a totally legitimate way to add a note of formality and somberness to the proceedings. If people feel like silently praying during that moment, no problem.

  • BoomerChick

    DSimon,
    Thanks for agreeing with me but did you notice I intentionally misspelled silence?

  • Abigail

    I liked how the one woman said that it was important to get students off on the right foot. Teaching them to violate the rights of others, and their own, is a great lesson. I totally agree.

  • Chip Jordan

    Hate to say it, but Christians would be quick to cherry-pick Jefferson, focusing on, “…all men shall be free to profess…their opinions in matters of Religion…” Or exactly what they just did at EUHS.

  • Dan W

    Why is it that these asshats have to force their stupid religion into everything, even when doing so is against the Constitution? Just because you’re the majority doesn’t mean you have the right to trample over the rights of the minority.

  • J.R. Mann

    Exeter’s board and admin reluctantly went with the moment of silence, but that was window dressing. If you want to see something really ridiculous, get a dvd of their middle school graduation the night before Exeter High. Watch a preacher get everyone to stand and raise their hand while he invokes God, Jesus. and the Holy Spirit. All those arms raised made it look like a Hitler rally. You can bet these bumpkins will have all the prayers back in next year.

  • Fundie Troll

    @ Phoena

    If they are so damn religious, why aren’t they attending a religious school? Then there would be no problem with all the praying they want.

    Do you seriously think that any Christian parent would send their children to a public school if they could afford to send them to a private Christian institution? Believe me, we don’t want to be there any more than you want us there…

    @ Jeff Satterley

    Apparently they missed Matthew 6:1-6

    Please understand the context of that scripture before you start pointing fingers. The pharisees were doing their acts of righteousness before men in order to BE HONORED BY MEN. They were not doing them to honor God. That is why Christ admonished them.

    Matthew 15:8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

    I don’t know where the hearts of these Christians were when they were praying publically, but I say that if the were doing it to bring honor and glory to the name of Christ, then may God bless them.

    Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven

    As long as there are Christians there will be public confessions that Jesus Christ is lord…

  • Drew M.

    “God is everywhere, he has to do with everything.”

    No he’s not, but Elvis is!

    @Fundie Troll

    Given the disrespect they showed during the moment of silence, I’d bet real cash that their intent wasn’t to honor your god.

    As long as there are Christians there will be public confessions that Jesus Christ is lord…

    …as well as hatred, bigotry, and disrespect towards anything non-xtian.

  • SmilingAtheist

    As long as there are Christians there will be public confessions that Jesus Christ is lord…

    As much as I and other atheist detest the public broadcasting of faith I honestly have no issue with it in the right places.

    No one was saying these students couldn’t pray, the school just can’t make it an official part of the graduation. The issue here is that these public schools are being overrun by fundamentalist who believe silly things like the US is a Christian nation, that minorities don’t have rights, etc.

    This kind of thing is all new (last 50 years) in the US unfortunately most people don’t realise it.

  • jcm

    These people are violating biblical law.

  • I go to church occasionally with my wife (who’s into that kind of thing). There’s this kid who is “special” and even during the “minute’s silence” (for various reasons), he’s up and down the aisles shouting or singing or whatever.

    Nobody minds, they just understand – a lot of the people are older, so they would described him as retarded.

  • Fundie Troll

    The issue here is that these public schools are being overrun by fundamentalist who believe silly things like the US is a Christian nation, that minorities don’t have rights, etc.

    I’m sorry, the schools are being overrun by whom? Since prayer USED to be an acceptable part of the school curriculum, and now it is not, I would say the opposite is true – our schools are being overrun by atheists who insist on scrubbing every last vestige of religion from the face of the planet. Congratulations, your efforts are paying off handsomely.

    As far as the the United States being a Christian nation, I would agree with you, it is not at the moment a Christian nation. However our nations has strong Christian roots and a deep religious heritage, and to deny these two is to rewrite history.

  • plutosdad

    in order to BE HONORED BY MEN.
    which is exactly why someone prays out loud when you are supposed to be silent.

    I can’t read their mind, but even when I was a christian, when it was time to bow your head and pray silently, that’s what I did, I didn’t start praying out loud to make sure everyone knew how holy I was.

    When i ran the system that tracked the annual united way giving for the fortune 500 company i worked for, many people checked the box to remain annonymous. One year something got messed up and all their names were printed, they were very upset, because they wanted to do what jesus said and not have people know. Those people followed jesus’ teaching, these people in the video are not. it’s that simple, there’s no “context” to understand.

  • Gliewmeden

    The ABC newswoman claims that the votes were not counted, would never be counted. So how did they arrive at the percentages stated?

  • Justin

    Since prayer USED to be an acceptable part of the school curriculum, and now it is not, I would say the opposite is true

    Not unlike “Separate But Equal” USED to be an acceptable social policy.

    our schools are being overrun by atheists who insist on scrubbing every last vestige of religion from the face of the planet.

    Bullshit. Very few atheists or atheist organizations take any action to restrict reasonable religious expression in any sphere. Religious Americans are a far, far cry from being persecuted into the underground. Whining because rational people (many, if not most, of whom are theists) are finally liberating temporarily captive audiences helps no one.

    As far as the the United States being a Christian nation, I would agree with you, it is not at the moment a Christian nation. However our nations has strong Christian roots and a deep religious heritage, and to deny these two is to rewrite history.

    Oratory, rhetoric, blah, blah, blah. “Christian Nation” is a legal status. A nation either is or is not a Christian nation. The United States of America is not one; this fact is plainly evident and has been since the crafting of our Constitution. Private citizens and their private organizations are more than welcome to all the “rich heritage” they can stuff into their saddlebags.

  • Phoena

    Fundie Troll is wrong and just arguing to argue.

    Having had experience with religious schools, they really aren’t that expensive, especially if you are a member of the church that runs the school. These crazies who want prayer in school are NOT poor, inner city kids with no money. They are generally middle class white kids whose parents *could* afford the religious schools but choose not to because they might not be a big sports star in a little christian school. They choose the public schools because they want someone else to pay for their education and subsidize their extracurricular activities, but yet they want to force school to be a religious school at the same time.

  • DSimon

    Thanks for agreeing with me but did you notice I intentionally misspelled silence?

    Whoops, BoomerChick, no I didn’t. I agree with both moments of silence and moments of science. 🙂

  • David W

    “The Exeter school board voted to ban prayer…”

    No, they didn’t. They voted to ban mandatory prayer endorsed by the state. Silent prayer is fine.

  • BoomerChick

    DSimon,
    … and atheists could use the moment of silence to read friendlyatheist.com.

  • plutosdad

    This is a pretty good article on church state seperation, sort of anecdotal as well as historical and interesting:

    http://quichemoraine.com/2010/06/the-christian-colonies/

  • David

    Don’t know what your all so cranky for, get up on wrong side of bed everyday of your life’s. What a person believes is what they believe some follow this and some follow that as for atheist not believing in anything seems you all are working hard to shove your ideals down everyone’s throats as well. It seems that hypocrisy is not just for “religion’s” but for those who’s religion is atheism. If you are for free will why all the threats, lawsuits and violence??? Murders are not committed just by Christian’s but by all walks of life. Did you get the part about atheism being your religion or are you to closely related to apes ha ha lol??? Just some atheist humor.