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Southern California Voices / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY

Youth / OPINION : Should There Be Prayer in Public School?

September 13, 1993| Compiled for The Times by Erik Hamilton


Muslim, 15, Fountain Valley

The term non-denominational prayer is by definition a contradiction. The idea of developing a single generic prayer that is acceptable to adherents of all religions is feasible only in theory, not in practice. If the public school system intends to hold organized prayers, it seems only natural that students of each religion would like the prayer to be their own.

It is impractical to say that Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others can share the same prayer without compromising or altering the basic tenets of their religion. An attempt to develop such a prayer may be referred to as "making a religion out of many religions."

In trying to adapt and alter each religion to a fixed standard we will only cause confusion and damage the uniqueness that each religion holds individually. The solution to this problem does not lie in compromise and conformity. We must keep firm in our beliefs and our values. We must be proud of our religion. And we must maintain our identity as a follower of that religion. At the same time, however, we need to respect and recognize each other's differences and try to live as a pluralistic society.

Schools should be generous in providing students with the resources that they need to organize their own prayers or any other assistance that they may need. It is only this way that we will be able to exercise our freedom of religion in the most appropriate manner.


Atheist, 17, Long Beach


Though I am an atheist, I still believe that if someone wants to believe in a god, then more power to them. But please, keep that belief to yourself and don't force it down my throat. Looking at it purely from the practical side, to try to compose a generic prayer that will be politically correct is not only stupid, but it will only open more doors we don't want opened. Are we only going to touch on the major religions when we write this prayer? How about the American Indian? Do we write a special paragraph for them? Or what about the various sects of Christianity? It's bad enough with one religion, must we have the whole platter? Please, if you have to do those things you do for your god, then do them in the appropriate places. Not in public school.


Born-again Christian, 18,

Huntington Beach


I see the decline of our nation. And though I cannot compare the happenings of today to the relatively peaceful past, I know that this nation can't take much more decline.

One of the reasons that we have come to this is the lack of tradition instilled in our students.

The decade that prayer was taken out of our schools was the decade that began the decline in SAT scores and began the drastic rise in crime rates among our youth. We have turned from being a nation of tradition, one nation under God, to one that has tried to be successful on its own and has failed.

Although I would prefer that each person pray to the God that I know--the Christian God--in order to accommodate all people's beliefs and not just my own, I would encourage a time set aside each day for silence in prayer that would allow and encourage each person to pray as they like to the God that they worship.


Jewish, 16, Huntington Beach


School is just a place. A building where students go to get an education. It is also a place to meet different people and interact. However, it is not the right place for religious activities or other functions such as prayer.

One of the main reasons why I believe that a non-denomination prayer would be inappropriate is because I don't think that students would really take it seriously. What would the teacher do during this time? Most likely, he or she would probably return to his desk and take roll, or prepare the day's lesson.

If the teacher doesn't participate, how can the students be expected to? It would become another two minutes in the day to turn to John Doe and ask him what he's doing after school. Those who would take it seriously may be offended by the lack of respect. This may cause tension between students, which would mean one more reason to point a finger and label. And those like me, who would choose neither to pray nor talk, would simply be frustrated by the wasted time.


Lutheran, 15, Irvine


Praying in public schools is a good idea. In the first couple minutes of class (it doesn't have to be that long), the school can allot an assigned amount of time for all students who want, to just sit there quietly and pray. No "big deal" prayer structured in a way similar to the Pledge of Allegiance where everyone stands up with their hands folded reciting some "default" prayer. Prayer is a sacred thing, and I think the school should grant those who want it the free time to pray.


Buddhist 17, Mission Viejo


I am a religious person. I have prayers that I do with my family day and night. I also attend religious meetings. My objections therefore do not arise because I (agree with atheists, or am anti-prayer), but rather from the fact that I do not feel it necessary to supplement general studies with prayer in a public school. If a student wishes to pray in school, then he or she should consider going to a religious school, rather than impose upon the individuality of a sect and the learning time of a student.

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