John McIntyre

Kids, the State can't make you pray

Gather around, little ones, we're going to talk today about Church and State. Church is where you learn about God, and State, in its schools, is where you learn about reading and writing and mathematics and science. But some people get the two confused.
One of them, a man named Mr. Huckabee, is seriously confused, because he said that all those children in Connecticut got killed because the State does not make us pray at school.
What's that? Why would the school make you pray? Well, let Mr. John take you back again to the Olden Times to explain.
When Mr. John was a little boy, every morning in school all the children stood and recited the Lord's Prayer. The Protestant version of the Lord's Prayer, which may have puzzled some of the little Roman Catholics. And actually not the Presbyterian version in Mr. John's church, which used debts and debtors instead of trespasses and trespass. (Someday you can read Mr. Weber's Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism to understand this.) If any little Jewish or Muslim children had been there, it would have been Awkward.
Then in 1962 the Supreme Court decided that the State has its hands full teaching reading and writing and mathematics and science, which it doesn't always do very well anyhow, and maybe parents and the Church should do the praying and teaching about God. 1962. That's fifty years since Engel v. Vitale, so if you want to know why God waited half a century to show he was mad at the Supreme Court, and had little children in Connecticut shot to show it, you would have to ask Mr. Huckabee.
Then in 1963 the Supreme Court decided that the State had no business making people listen to Bible readings at school to try to get around the rule against praying. When Mr. John was older, his high school had a reading every morning over the public-address system of some nice little poem or piece of prose. And since Mr. John was a big noise in speech and drama, he got picked to choose and read the nice little poem or piece of prose pretty often. It was usually things like E.B. White's little poem about the paper-white narcissus, because Mr. John agreed with the Supreme Court that the State should get out of the business of teaching about God.
Mr. John learned in school that we have a Secular Republic. That means everybody, people who have different understandings about God and people who don't think there is one, is a citizen. That means nobody, no matter how sincere and devout and well-meaning, gets to use the State to teach children his understanding of God. And you, little ones, are also citizens of our Secular Republic, which means you get to grow up and make up your own minds. That's a good thing.
*Sometimes I think Mr. Huckabee says silly things just to get attention.