Recently, the Gilbert Public School board decided not to revive opening prayers at meetings, which has upset many members of the Gilbert community.
According to The Arizona Republic, local resident and current board candidate Daryl Colvin is strongly in favor of the revival of the pre-meeting prayer. The board currently employs a moment of silence instead of a prayer and has been doing so since 2001.
Board member Helen Hollands says that while she does not remember the reason prayer left the meetings, she is in support of the moment of silence approach because “it allows all in attendance to exercise their freedom to pray in the way most meaningful to them as an individual,” according to the same Arizona Republic article.
The “prayer” in question would have to be strictly non-denominational and may be given as long as it does not reference any particular faith. It wouldn’t really be much of a prayer at all.
I can only imagine it going something like: “We are gathered here, under one or more gods, or fewer, in hopes to receive clarity regarding the decisions we must make for our children.”
If the prayer is non-denominational in nature, then what difference does it make? If parents need to consult their deities to decide what is best for their children, they are entitled to do so. But while those in favor of the pre-meeting prayer claim that prayers set a positive tone for the meetings and allow “better decisions and fewer mistakes,” they cannot be the only answer.
One could flash a picture of an animal in a funny hat and probably set as much of a “positive tone.” Are parents so unsure of their own abilities that they feel prayer is the only way to make the right decisions?
Keeping prayer out of the board meetings is GPS’s way of adhering to constitutional principles. The Chandler Unified School District board, which has also abandoned pre-meeting prayer, now reads a poem or recites a quote in place of prayer.
The opposition states their claim as sustaining a successful American tradition (prayer) against “leftist activism,” as Colvin calls it, for the Republic.
Local business owner Anita Christy, who is also against the board’s decision, told The Arizona Republic: “Who are these gutless wonders who are more afraid of offending the leftists than of offending God. Are there no Christians in this community willing to stand against the atheists who are taking over their children?”
Those gutless wonders? They are the ones fighting for your child’s right to a good education, doing their best to keep the school’s money out of a lawsuit and in the classroom where it belongs.
There are obviously Christians in the community, but just because a public school would rather have a moment of silence or recite a poem than give a non-denominational prayer does not mean that Atheists are taking over our children. It seems that those worried about Atheism corrupting these young minds will do a fine job of that themselves.
The school board still does not begin with a prayer, and frankly, I hope it stays that way.
Opening a school board meeting with prayer would be connecting church and state, two things that are both fundamentally and constitutionally separate.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @ShawnChergorsky