Friday, August 18, 2006

Daily Kos: The Right Not to Pray In School

Daily Kos: The Right Not to Pray In School:
"But how far does the right not to pray go, and what does it require? Is the onus upon the students choosing not to participate? If the voluntary, student-led prayer is allowed, then the non-participating students have two options: stay and just don't listen, or leave the room until the prayer is finished. I know from experience that neither option is all that comfortable for the non-participating students, in part because both options make them stand out for their non-participation. And the second option almost seems like the classroom, and the even the school itself, belongs less to them than it does to the religious majority.

Should they have to leave the room or sit there and 'not listen'? The only other option would be not to allow the prayer at all, and that would likely incense the religious majority, which could mean more negative consequences for those in the religious minority, if they are identified as such and associated with the prohibition in the minds of the religious minority. You only have to look at the what happened to the Dobrich to see that.

In a way, the stories of both families are kind of a reflection of the situation faced by religious minorities (including the non-religious) right about now. Just like with the school situation, if America is a 'Christian nation,' what's the status of non-christians and non-believers? To what degree is this our country too? Or does it primarily belong to the religious majority? And does that mean that in order to keep some semblance of peace, the rest of us must 'not look' and 'not listen'? And as religion becomes more and more a part of public life, and increasingly informs policy, what does that mean for the citizenship of the non-religious and religious minorities?"

It means as a humanist parent you teach kids to why you are a humanist and what that means. You make sure they understand they have freedom of belief and action.
You explain that when people pray around you it doesn't bother you, but you don't pretend to participate. You quietly go about your business and let them pray. You can listen. Listening to a prayer and saying a prayer are two different things. When someone leads a prayer if you are praying with them it is as if you are saying those words too. Just listening to someone say a prayer is not praying. If it is appropriate to have kids singing songs about Jesus, it is certainly appropriate to teach them agnosticism, atheism, or humanism.

We had just a few Jehovah's Witnesses in our school system growing up. They never had a problem not saying the pledge, or not participating in holiday parties, at least no problem that they showed. They knew and understood what they believed,
and what they believed didn't seem any crazier to me than any other story that starts with a virgin birth and ends with a resurrection.

Anyway, what I'd have to say is that non-Christian kids just have to toughen up - there is no excuse for what happened in this case. Nobody should be thrown out of a public school activity because they won't pray. But kids who don't wanna pray or pray a different way should just do their thing knowing that living your beliefs is important.

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