The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Joplin Globe Editorial Watch: Removing a prayer

Our Conscience

Contrary to what many people believe, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale did not remove prayer from public schools. It removed a prayer. This was a prayer prepared by the New York State Board of Regents. As Justice Black noted in the majority opinion of the court, a prayer by any definition constituted a religious activity, and by promoting prayer the state violated the Establishment Clause.
Justice Black delivered the opinion of the court.

“The respondent Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 9, New Hyde Park, New York, acting in its official capacity under state law, directed the School District’s principal to cause the following prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day:”

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”
This decision did not “remove prayer” from the public schools. It did prohibit government agencies from writing such prayers and from directing their recitation. As a retired teacher from Joplin, I often observed students praying — most often it seemed on days of examinations.

Galen McKinley



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