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Should the Schools Allot a Moment for Prayer?

February 06, 1988

President Reagan, in his State of the Union address Jan. 25, urged Congress to restore prayer in the public schools.

"This Congress opens its proceedings each day, as does the Supreme Court, with an acknowledgement of the Supreme Being," he said, "yet we are denied the right to set aside in our schools a moment each day for those who wish to pray."

However, including religion in public schools has consistently been ruled a violation of the First Amendment, which calls for the separation of church and state.

The most recent decision was handed down Feb. 1 by California's 4th District Court of Appeal, which ruled that high school organizations that advertise Bible study and prayer groups may be barred from school premises.

In 1962 and 1963, the Supreme Court declared that state statutes requiring daily prayers and Bible readings in school violated the Constitution's ban on "laws respecting an establishment of religion."

Two years ago, the justices, on a 6-3 vote, threw out an Alabama law calling for a moment of silence "for voluntary prayer." However, in that ruling, five members of the court suggested that they would approve a moment-of-silence law that had no religious purpose.

Here's a look at some of the responses to this week's Hot Topic: "Should a moment each day be set aside in public schools for those who wish to pray?"

Anaheim

"Prayer is not a necessity in the classroom. Religion is something which should be left to the individual to seek on his or her own time. The classroom is a place to prepare yourself for college or future occupations. Let's leave prayer for the church and the household, not the state."

--Bobby Gorman, 17, senior

Dana Hills

"A moment should be set aside, but not specifically to pray. No one has the right to push religion on anyone else."

--Lisa Louie, 17, senior

"We educate our children in every imaginable academic pursuit and yet by exclusion (of prayer) we strike an agnostic, if not atheist, pose in front of them."

--Mike Mikulics, journalism adviser

Edison

"I think it's good that people pray, but they should do it at their own time and not at school."

--Nikki Sillet, 15, sophomore

"No, because the children whose parents don't want them to be exposed to religion will be (exposed)."

--Billy Martineau, 15, sophomore

Esperanza

"To tell you the truth, at our school, it really wouldn't matter. A moment of silence wouldn't be a moment of silence. We'd goof off--kind of like 'a moment of meditation.' "

--John Corrow, 17, senior

"There should be a moment of silence. Other than that, it could be a free study time. It's really the people's own business if they want to pray."

--Yvonne Lin, 16, junior

Fullerton

"I think it should be a personal choice. If a person wants to pray, he or she should be given a moment. If, during that time allotted, a person doesn't want to pray, he or she should just sit and respect the others' rights."

--Jennifer Doolittle, junior

"It wouldn't bother me if a student wanted to say a prayer to himself in class. On the other hand, I don't think prayer should be allowed to interfere with my teaching or the learning of the rest of the class. If it doesn't, then go ahead and pray if it helps you."

--Barbara Clark, journalism adviser

Foothill

"I'm a Christian. God and prayer should be the center of my life all the time. But I feel there's a better way to go about it."

--Mike MacKinnon, 17, senior

"I support it (prayer in school). It seems the government always moves towards restricting religious expressions."

--Brian Aust, 17, senior

Los Alamitos

"The public schools are not the place for the enforcement or the implementation of any form of religion."

--Robert Tuttle, 18, senior

"The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Students should be given the right that members of Congress are afforded during each session--the right to pray silently and voluntarily at the beginning of each day."

--Neal Okazaki, 17, senior

Next Week's Hot Topic: How do you feel about school administrators or police searching your school locker?

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