Public School “Prayer Walks” Often Blur Church/State Separation Lines August 11, 2021

Public School “Prayer Walks” Often Blur Church/State Separation Lines

There’s a bizarre ritual that takes place at the beginning of the school year where many Christians across the country decide to pray around public schools, inside the buildings, and outside classroom doors. Sometimes there’s “holy water” involved. This is all somehow intended to bless the place before students come inside.

For the most part, this is legal. Church groups are welcome to say whatever magic words they want to, on their own time, and no one else is obligated to take them seriously.

The problem occurs when school districts play along, endorsing the prayer events and encouraging others to join in.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has received so many complaints involving prayer groups and school districts crossing legal boundaries that they just released a special report on the matter.

For instance, school staff in Enterprise City Schools and Boaz City Schools, both in Alabama, hosted, organized and participated in a prayer walk through school halls in 2019. Both districts also promoted the event on official social media pages. Summer Creek High School in Texas hosted a prayer walk to celebrate a merger of two area high schools. The school promoted the event on its official web pages using the slogan “Two Schools. One God.”

Prayer walks are religious events. Therefore public schools cannot organize them, use district resources to advertise them, or allow religious groups special access to school campuses to host them. School districts must heed the Supreme Court’s declaration that “the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere.” Parents, not district administrators, have the right to dictate the religious or nonreligious upbringing of their children. Schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate.

This shouldn’t be complicated. School districts need to get out of the way and stop giving these religious (almost always conservative Christian) groups preferential treatment.

The irony is that many of the same Christians praying at these schools, I suspect, also oppose mask mandates, try to block comprehensive sex education and whitewash history lessons and ignore scientific realities. If they actually cared about the students, the best thing they could do would be getting out of the damn way.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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