Not a Prayer
The Supreme Court Rules Against Public Prayer
by Francois Tremblay (e-mail: [Updated March 26th, 2005]

     SUPREME COURT RULES AGAINST PUBLIC PRAYER 6-3 (June 19th): I'm glad that the Supreme Court still respects the Constitution, but I don't expect it to last. What's the use of prayer in sports, anyway?

     Speech is the vocal form of communication. Of course, when we say "free speech," we do not mean "vocal communication" -- we use it as a metaphor for communication. Some forms of communication are heavily laden with ideology, and free speech is meant to protect people who promote ideologies that other people may not like.

“The separation of church and state does not exist to keep from bruising people's egos, but to prevent our freedom from being subsidiary of religious doctrines.”
     Well, that is not exactly true. The US Constitution says that no law should abridge freedom of speech. It also promotes the separation of church and state. Therefore, any promotion of religion or religious activity that seeks to be protected by courts must be private.

     The ruling of the Supreme Court on June 19th, which concluded 6 to 3 against public prayers in schools, regarded specifically student-led prayers over public address systems, i.e. school-owned communication lines. There is nothing that prevents students from praying in school, any more than discussing ethics or being one with the universe. No doubt religious paranoia will surface again, but it is unwarranted.

     I don't like the most popular argument, which was proposed amongst others by Justice Stevens in his judgement: "[s]chool sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community...." It is very misleading because it gives the impression that one of the roles of the state is to make people feel at ease. That is far from the truth. As in the case of censorship, nobody has the right not to be offended. Otherwise, Christians could in turn reply that the lack of prayers makes them feel as outsiders. The separation of church and state does not exist to keep from bruising people's egos, but to prevent our freedom from being subsidiary of religious doctrines.

     Of course the religious reich is in complete fits over this decision. Unfortunately they have yet to understand that they do not own society, and that they certainly do not own the moral or political high ground. It must be disheartening to contemplate but religion's failures certainly does not warrant it any more power in our society than any other false ideology. Sure, it's not as comforting to have players pray for themselves rather than forcing everyone to bear their silly incantations, but life is not meant to be comforting.

     Another problem is the religious affiliation. Since Christianity is not the only religion out there (and again, I know this is not comforting, but the truth does not tend to comfort), we should logically give equal time to anyone who wants to chant other incantations, or even to give a religious message. Somehow I don't think it would be favoured for a Satanist to say a couple lines from the beginning of the Satanic Bible. Why, they might actually learn something! And that would certainly be sinful.

     The current repression of religious activities as well as secular ones is a sad state of affairs. However this is not such a case. Rather the contrary: if there is one direction where schools still err, it is on the side of religion. As we see from the fact that public prayer in school is still being hotly debated, religion still has its cold and icy grip on public education. Not to mention that most private schools and homeschooling are religion-oriented. We wonder why our youth is turning sour while we turn away from the implications of educating our children in lies and hypocrisy.

     The goal of education is to prepare children to the realities of life by giving them the tools they need to understand it. Religious "education" is counter-current to this goal.

Prayer in Sports: Ridiculous Idea by any Standard

     On the subject of prayer before football games, the idea itself is rather silly and laughable. If you buy the idea of incantations in the first place, and even if you are religious, prayer in sports should be insulting to you.

     Why do I say that? Well, whatever god one believes in supposedly has created the whole universe. In short, everything, including quasars, supernovas and Kraft Dinner - if not instantly, then potentially. There are more stars and galaxies (and supposedly, lifeforms, alien or otherwise) than you can possibly imagine in a thousand years. And this incredibly powerful being is supposed to... help you win a football game.

“ is said about school prayer, 'studying outperforms prayer by 100%.'”
     Isn't that, like, a little demeaning?

     I don't know about you, but if I was an omnipotent being and some little guys down there on a little backwater planet in a backwater galaxy asked me to help them win their petty competitions... I'd flip them the bird. Get a life, guys! I have more important stuff to do. Like watch the supernova in the Crab Nebula or something.

     And what about conflicting prayers? We can presume that both teams are equally respectful of the invocations or prayers that they give. Does God make his choice based on religious fervour? Most likely, talent, strategy and luck determine the winner. A coach who would think otherwise would quickly be condemned. Or as is said about school prayer, "studying outperforms prayer by 100%."

     Of course I don't expect the current neutrality of the legal system towards the first amendment to last much longer than its neutrality towards the second amendment, or the others. I expect it is only a matter of time before the religion-state barrier, which is already seriously eroded, will blow up - perhaps in three or four years. Multiple factors, including the present predominance of religious tendencies in education, the pressure of the majority on public education, the erosion of the social fabric thru private schools and homeschooling, point to the ultimate degradation of secular values.

     The real problem of religious doctrines in school is not as much parental discomfort as it is indoctrination. It's a very difficult problem from the pragmatic viewpoint. As long as the government persists in keeping public education alive, we will face governmental indoctrination. But if the private sector takes over education, we will face social indoctrination. But in terms of freedom, there is no doubt that lawsuits like the one we have been exposed to, and such wastes of time, should not have happened in the first place.


  • FOX News: Volatile School Prayer Issue Shows Divisions in Supreme Court
  • Washington Post: School Prayer Is Dealt a Blow
  • ABC News: Court Bans Pre-Game Prayer
  • The Galveston County Daily News: Pregame Prayer Legal Battle Ends

    Click here to return to our Articles @ The Liberator