In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen, the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a nonsequitur in legislation before. I’m skeptical that recitation leads to good citizenship. But, in any event, the legislation graciously permits the school’s governing body to pick which version of the Lord’s Prayer to use and allows parents or students to not participate.
I see from the Wikipedia article that The Lord’s Prayer appears in Jesus’ discourse on ostentation in the Gospel of Matthew wherein Jesus cautions against public displays of piety mainly having the purpose of letting others see you pray. That would seem to make the irony of this legislation fairly thick. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that this type of attempt at having government sanctioned prayer looks like nothing so much as the effort of a small but vocal subset of Christians to mark their territory. “This school is ours – we’ll tolerate you, if we must, but don’t forget who is running the show.”
Not even subtle in this case. They could just as easily have said prayer generically, knowing that given demographics, the prayer would always be either neutral or some flavor of Christianity. It would never be anything contrary to Christianity, but at least they’d have a fig leaf of neutrality. But, by raising up The Lord’s Prayer, they aren’t even pretending that non-Christian religions are entitled to anything like equal consideration. And now, when the inevitable push back comes from people with concerns about behaving in a manner that’s Constitutional, or even just neighborly, the subset of territory markers can wallow in their self-inflicted martyrdom.
Update Jacie Shoaf, writing for the Evansville Courier Press has an article on this issue. Sen. Tomes said he just introduced it to have a discussion about it.
He said he wanted the prayer in schools in order to help children “recognize right from wrong or good from bad.”
Never mind that the Lord’s Prayer has very little to say about right and wrong. It tells us that there is a God is in heaven, that his name is hallowed, that his kingdom is coming, that his will should be done, that we should be forgiven for our wrongs and should do the same for others, requests that God deliver us for evil, and that God is super cool. It looks to me more like a statement of powerlessness and submission than any kind of lesson about good and bad.
But, as Ken Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union said, ““The reason there’s not going to be a hearing is because it’s unconstitutional.”