I’m going to disagree with my bosses on both their content and tone in the editorial that appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of the Review.
They wrote, “That she [Kim Lightford] would introduce this abhorrent legislation [the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act] is an embarrassment and one that ought to have consequences come the next election.” They added that the new legislation is “yet another intrusion by state government into an area where it has no business, where there was no problem in search of a solution.”
1. If the makeup of the Supreme Court has been influenced by the religious right, the above statement has been biased by the religious left. Since as early as 1962 (the school prayer case called Wallace v. Jaffre), the Supreme Court has followed the cultural trend of pushing religion increasingly to the margins of the public square.
Proponents of this trend cite both the Sixth Article-the “religious test” clause-and the First Amendment-the “establishment of religion” clause-to support their, what I would call, “judicial legislation.”
When the founding fathers created the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they weren’t worried about religion having too much influence on politics. What, in their recent memory, concerned them was the attempt by some to establish one institutional expression of religion as the state sponsored church.
The passage of a bill requiring a moment of silence in the schools is a long, long way from establishing any one church or even religion as being official. I worry about minority rights just like you do. But when the balance shifts too far towards minority rights, majority rule becomes meaningless.
2. When I was getting trained to be a school teacher in the early ’70s, a teaching strategy called values clarification was the big deal. The idea was that schools shouldn’t TEACH values to kids. That was, in my boss’s words, “an area where it had no business.” Well, the Character Counts program, which has been implemented in District 91 for years now, assumes that the teaching of values-not just their clarification-is the business of the schools.
To my observation, our culture values spirituality if not religion. A moment of silence honors that value. It doesn’t even teach it.
3. Over 15 years ago, when what was then called Tri-Village PADS was being created-mostly by church going folk-the issue of whether to pray before the evening meal was raised. The group came up with a practical solution that both honored the desires of the faithful among their guests and at the same time respected those who had no use or desire for prayer. The consensus that formed was to have a moment of silence.
4. To me, the slippery slope argument is as misguided as was the domino theory during the Vietnam War years, only this time around it’s being used by the liberals instead of the conservatives. They say, “Give those Evangelicals an inch and they’ll take a religious mile.” Well, it’s not a slippery slope. The American people won’t let it be. They know the difference between ideological extremes and practical compromises. If the two extremes in the abortion debate could figure that out, we’d get some helpful legislation.
Religion belongs in the public square, not at its center but not at the margins either. I’m against prayer in the public schools myself, because when people try to write a prayer that both expresses genuine faith and at the same respects differences in belief, it winds up doing neither. Providing an approved, intentional time for prayer, however, is a lot different than leading a prayer. Lightford’s legislation might not be the best that we can do, but neither is it an embarrassment.