November 11 marks Remembrance Day in Canada. That holiday, akin to our Veterans Day, honors members of the armed forces who died in service.
Jubilee Elementary School in the town of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia was planning to hold an in-school event to mark the occasion on November 6, with local veterans. It was going to include a Christian prayer called “A Prayer for People of Courage” which begins, “We offer to you, O God, our prayers for those who seek justice and resist evil.”
But a few days ago, school officials correctly decided that the prayer would exclude all the non-Christians in the school, so they decided to remove it from the ceremony. Everyone was welcome to pray on their own, but the official ceremony wouldn’t have the unnecessary advertisement for Christianity.
You can guess how that went over with people.
Immediately after the announcement, local veterans lashed out at the decision.
Clarence Dawe served in the Canadian Forces in the 1960s and is a former president of the Royal Canadian Legion Nova Scotia Nunavut Command. He said by removing the prayer, they’re trying to stop a 92-year tradition.
“Our men and women who fought overseas took prayers every day,” said Dawe. “Padres, chaplains followed them right into battle. That’s what kept them going.”
Rev. Nick Phillips is the padre of the Branch 8 legion.
“The school called me yesterday morning to inform me that I was certainly welcome to attend their service, but there would be no prayers as they’ve been told they’re not allowed,” said Phillips.
Prayers may be what kept believers going, but no doubt there were atheists and other non-religious people serving in the Canadian Forces. The ignorant slander that “there are no atheists in foxholes” has never been true anywhere. This whole “controversy” was really a question of whether students should be subject to unwanted prayers, not some attempt to shut down Christianity.
And yet the backlash was so fierce that the school reversed the decision within a day.
One Jubilee parent, who served in Afghanistan, says he had a hard time explaining it all to his five-year-old son.
“He just wanted to know why I was crying,” said Leo Seguin. “And I said, ‘Dad had a lot of close friends, and some people are making decisions that daddy can’t change.'”
Thursday morning, there was a phone call to the legion to inform the veterans that there had been a change of heart and the prayer will now be allowed.
“She apologized,” said Elizabeth Simpson, service office for the Legion. “I had mentioned to her, ‘You’re apologizing to the wrong person. You should be apologizing to the veterans.'”
My goodness. These people are brave enough to serve in combat, but tell them to be slightly considerate to Jews and Muslims and atheists, and they break down entirely.
There’s nothing to apologize about. The school is making the wrong decision. The same veterans who fight for the nation’s freedoms are using their stature and respect to force prayers down kids’ throats. There’s no reason a public school should be including a prayer in any event. Save it for the home or church. School is where kids go to learn useful things, not pretend a fairy tale is real.
No one is denying the faith of many veterans, nor is anyone depriving them of the opportunity to pray on their own time. But keeping a tradition alive simply because it’s tradition is ridiculous. The school shouldn’t have caved on this one.
(Image via Shutterstock)