Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools

Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools

Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools

Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools

Synopsis

This is the first thorough examination to bring together the experiences of parents and children involved in contesting public school sanctioned prayer and Bible reading. Personal interviews were conducted with those involved in seven prominent cases beginning with the McCollum case decided by the Supreme Court in 1948 and concluding with the ongoing struggle of Rachel Bauchman and Kevin Herdahl to protest official school activities in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Ecru, Mississippi.

Each story challenges communities that impose the mores and cultural patterns of religion on their public schools. The result, in most instances, has been angry protests as well as threats against parents and children, and/or property damage.

Excerpt

In the fall of 1966 one of our two sons was enrolled in a public school first grade in the County of Henrico in metropolitan Richmond, Virginia. Early in the school year our son informed us that his teacher was reading the Bible to his class. His description made it clear that she was interpreting, in a literal fashion, biblical stories from the Book of Genesis. As he recounted events, we learned that the teacher had informed him that the story of Noah's ark was not only a historical event, but a warning that God kills people who are "bad." He asked if that were true. When his mother and I tried to explain, in terms he could understand, that the Noah tale was a myth developed three thousand years ago by ancient people to explain natural events in a nonscientific world, we discovered we were creating an emotional conflict that was disturbing to our six-year-old. No person in a first grader's life has more credibility than the teacher, and we were not prepared, based on the information we had gathered, to undermine that trust. If, as we suspected, the teacher had indeed betrayed that trust, then we had to confront the situation with the school officials.

As we contemplated what action we should take, we were well aware that we could, even by a visit to the principal, generate a confrontation that might easily adversely affect our child's relationships both in the school and in the community. After careful analysis . . .

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