Should public prayers or discussions of religion be banned at school?

Religion is an inevitable part of human life. It inspires us, gives us strength to move on when facing challenging situations, shapes moral values influencing our decisions. Religion is studied as a discipline in many educational institutions, mainly those which are funded by religious organizations and churches.

Devout teachers and parents believe that it is worth turning prayers into a part of the educational routine, read Scripture, and discuss it publicly. At the same time, there are people opposing this approach, claiming that the academic world should not coincide with religious life.

Experts from have studied arguments of both parties and outlined them below. If you still do not have a personal point of view on this issue or want to collect more information, this article will help you take a pragmatic look at prayers and religious discussions in school.

Advocates’ arguments

Those who want to have prayers in public schools usually claim that:

  • The state should promote freedom of religion rather than freedom from religion. If regarding atheism as a religion, just like black is sometimes regarded as a color, it turns out that students not allowed to pray should obey the non-religious minority. The same effect may be achieved if people would not agree on the best color and paint everything black.
  • Voluntary school prayers cannot be equated to establishing a religion on a state level. The same applies to celebrating religious holidays or hiring Congressional chaplains.
  • Religious practices should help to address burning social issues and lower criminal statistics. The modern world suffers from shootings, drug addictions, early pregnancies, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases. School prayer can show the importance of a healthy lifestyle and moral values to students, help them grow into honest, humane, responsible, disciplined, and conscientious people.
  • Schools train children’s minds academically, teach them how to become good specialists, and earn money. But it is not enough for happiness. Prayers can satisfy emotional and psychological needs, act as a self-analysis tool helping a person to look inside one’s soul, understand personal desires and life goals.
  • Representatives of some confessions pray in a special time and cannot postpone this ritual. If a person does not affect others, why should one be prohibited to satisfy spiritual needs, observe religious traditions throughout a school day? After all, it is a constitutional right. Education is important, but it should not overshadow other life areas.
  • Prayers is school allow children to expand horizons, find out about their peers’ traditions and beliefs, form a comprehensive idea of the surrounding reality. If segregating church and education, students are likely to be ignorant and intolerant, know nothing about the values and customs of people living next door. Of course, it is not worth accepting some universal religion. Such an approach is as bad as ignoring spiritual needs, also means painting everything in one color and depriving society of the opportunity to enjoy diversity. The best option is instilling tolerance, allowing kids to study various confessions and make a voluntary choice.
  • If considering this issue from a historical perspective, religion and education were inseparable for centuries. The first educational institutions were opened by churches. It was believed that knowledge is sent from God and, therefore, should be expanded and replenished, used to perform His commandments. At the same time, modern science occupies a rather arrogant position, shows that it is above religion, does not need it. Technological progress is associated with financial benefits and convenience rather than lofty goals. Advocates claim that it is worth supporting old traditions, maintaining an environment in which spiritual and academic worlds can coexist.

Opponents’ arguments

Those who believe that there should be no religion in schools usually place an emphasis on the following arguments:

  • Schools promoting a certain religion violate constitutional rights. Each religious group has its own praying rituals. There should be no school officials turning to a particular god, pronouncing worlds from a particular scripture, not allowing kids to make a voluntary choice. The educational system should stay unbiased, not exert any pressure, support ideals of a multiethnic, multicultural and multi-religious society. It is worth allowing students to pray. But teachers should not give instructions and control this process.
  • Children not acting in the same way as their peers usually attract bullies’ attention. Representatives of religious minorities and atheists are often oppressed by kind Christians, feel like black sheep, are forced to make friends only with those classmates who have the same worldview. Also, teachers may punish a kid for refusal to attend a public prayer, regard such behavior as laziness and the lack of discipline. Private schools tailored for religious minorities are way too expensive for most families.
  • Significant funds, time, and energy should be spent to maintain a religious atmosphere and hold special events. As a rule, money is taken from a general budget at the expense of other academic activities. The more public prayers are organized, the fewerOlympiads, sports sections, extracurricular scientific clubs, educational trips, new textbooks, furniture, and lab equipment students receive. All this adversely affects their academic performance, returns kids to the Medieval era when many natural phenomena were explained by God’s will.
  • Opponents claim that there is a great place for prayers – a church. If parents would like their kids to pray and discuss religion, they can care about this issue self-handedly. School’s intervention is superfluous.

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