During a public forum last night at the Savannah Grove Baptist Church in South Carolina, several state representatives brought up a still-not-dead bill they sponsored that would allow public school teachers to pray with students. It’s an act that’s already been declared unconstitutional because it’s a form of religious coercion, but that hasn’t stopped these religious opportunists from pleasuring the Religious Right.
A teacher employed by a public school district may express a religious viewpoint, and also may conduct or participate in any student-led prayer or student-organized prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings organized by students of a public school…
To put it another way, a football coach could have a pre-game prayer to Jesus Christ. A math teacher could lead the class in prayer before a big exam. And overt proselytizing in the classroom wouldn’t be punished.
It would just be government-sponsored Christian indoctrination.
And that’s why South Carolina Republicans love it.
“It’s sad that we have to introduce a bill that gives us a God-given right to start with,” [State Rep. Richie] Yow said. “Right now the way that it’s set up in the state is the teachers cannot pray with the students, even when they ask, and it’s our God-given right to be able to do that. We’re taking away freedom of speech, and these bills are just giving some of that freedom back that these families have earned.”
Freedom of speech doesn’t give teachers the right to push their faith on students any more than they should be telling students how to vote in an upcoming election. It crosses lines that exist for good reason.
Are these legislators okay with atheist teachers telling students God doesn’t exist? Or a coach telling athletes that God is on their side instead of the other team’s? They haven’t thought it through because they’re blinded by their faith.
And make no mistake, the elected officials at Monday’s forum were only interested in promoting Christianity. They’re not even hiding the fact that this isn’t really about “religious freedom.”
Pat Gibson Hye-Moore, a Florence City councilwoman, said the Constitution gives her the right to pray.
“This country was built on Christianity,” Hye-Moore said.
Rep. Bill Chumley of Spartanburg said supporters should not be discouraged because bills have not left committee. He said supporters should continue to advocate.
“When you take prayer out of schools, you replace it with metal detectors,” Chumley said.
What. The. Hell.
School shootings occur in red states, too, and secular nations have lower levels of violence that religious ones. Prayer isn’t a cure for violence. In many cases, it exacerbates it.
One critic at that forum rightly asked Chumley to show him the research that shows prayer prevents violence. (We don’t know Chumley’s response, but whatever it was, I promise you he had no citations to back up his ludicrous claim.)
This bill is nothing but an illegal way to force Christianity into public schools. No one has ever stopped religious people from praying in schools. What these legislators want to do is push their personal faith upon students. They would be outraged if any non-Christian attempted to do it, but they know damn well that non-Christians, by and large, respect church/state separation. All the more reason for them to ignore the Constitution and attempt to ram this legislation through as soon as possible, before anyone notices.
If there’s no action on the bill by the May deadline, it’ll be officially dead.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)