Saturday, March 23, 2013

A brief history of school prayer in America

Since the Supreme Court decision of 1962, school prayer has been banned in American schools. Thinking back to my childhood and those happy days at Fanny Hillers School, I can remember when we said the Lord's Prayer at the start of the school day. I remember it was the one time of the day when the three religions represented in the classroom, the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant religions attacked the prayer differently, much to the consternation of the teachers.

When we said the Lord's prayer, the five Jewish kids had to keep silent. As a Catholic I was obliged to say the Lord's prayer up to the last sentence then stay silent for the most poetic part of the prayer, "for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever" but could join in for the Amen at the end. Vatican II allowed for this extension to the Lord's prayer, but by that time it was banned in schools anyway. Looking back it must have seemed strange for half the voices to be cut out at the last sentence.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all the children in the classroom except for the two Jehovah's Witness kids who had to sit and keep quiet. As children mature the Pledge moves from the loud sing songey declarations of the early grades to the mumbled voices of high school.

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