Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Prayer in Schools

I've read some articles recently about a school...up north somewhere I believe, that has Friday jumah prayers at the school. The issue, as I understand it, is that some people are claiming that having the female students who choose to attend praying behind a barrier behind the boys is sexist. Which, we'll leave that argument alone because it's not my fight and it's only the fact that reading the articles reminded me of my own school experience that makes me bring it up.

I don't know if many of you will recall, but I went to middle school and part of high school at a 'non-denominational' Christian private school. 'Non-denominational' turned out to be code for 'Southern Baptist' and it explains many of my issues with that group. :) (My apologies to Susanne, who has slowly been teaching me better...)

There was, because it was a Christian school, of course, mandatory Bible classes and prayer at the beginning of the school day. Seeing as how I was not, even then, a Christian, I read the Bible and asked questions that confused and annoyed many of my teachers and I tucked my head when everyone else was praying and thought about vampires or something else more interesting. And I felt uncomfortable, but that was to be expected. It was something to get through and then have it over and done with.

But what I didn't really expect was, when I switched to public school for the last two years of high school, the Christian groups on campus made me even more uncomfortable. And it's nothing that any of them did! I want to make that clear. It's not like they were militantly obnoxious or anything, though they were on the outs a bit since they tended to want to restrict what everyone else saw as harmless fun, like Halloween. And, of course, there was the clash between them and the LGBT teens who wanted to start their own 'club' on campus. When I say they didn't *do* anything, I mean they weren't screaming at people in the halls, throwing paint on them, spitting on them or anything like that. They were, even in disagreement, very polite and friendly as far as I ever saw them.

Only, they kept getting together in groups between classes, or at lunch and praying. And it made me uncomfortable, because they were doing it out in public. I can't explain *why* it made me uncomfortable, it just did. Maybe because I thought that religion was a very private matter and one of those things that belongs...'over there'. Away. *waves hands in that direction* And they met before school, and it just happened to be in my home room! So if I got there early, which I always tried to do so I could get a good parking space, I either had to sit out in the hall or sit in there and listen to them.

Anyway...what do you all think of allowing prayer in schools? Prayer of any kind or religion, of course. I'll be honest and say it still makes me uncomfortable, because not everyone shares that creed, or any creed at all. I still feel like it belongs, over there. Like, if the kids want to form groups and have designated times and spaces for it, then fine. That's where it belongs though. Not in the rest of the campus.


  1. I'd love to have prayer time and space available in schools. I don't think it should be mandatory, even in religious schools, but asking everyone to take quiet prayer/meditation/reflection time to themselves once (or several) times a day actually seems to make lots of sense to me!

  2. one year in my junior school we had a rather over zealous baptist teacher.

    we had to stand on the desk whilst we said the morning prayer and then before we went home. we promptly jumped down at the end of the day, and put our chairs upside down ready for the cleaners! LOL

    anyways we used to sing along to her playing the guitar. Not sure what work we actually got done but for sure we sang alot that year and prayed a lot. We also had assembly every morning. where we sang on mass and had more prayers.

    I think I turned out ok.

    But I dont think I would like a child of mine to be doing that much at school. with out me having any idea what they are sharing from the scriptures. I think I want to be in control of that.

    We never stood in the play ground praying though.

    in my head I see ned flanders.

  3. Haha! I enjoyed this. It's always fun learning more about you and here you shared some things I never knew.

    I don't usually mind people have groups that meet, but I can understand why some people would be bothered especially when they think religion should be private and *waves hand over there like Amber does.* :)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. And I'm really sorry you had issues with the Southern Baptists at the Christian school. Is it too cliche' to say that there are good and bad in all groups? And sometimes self-professed Christians are very, very hateful and fail miserably in showing Christlike compassion to people? It often makes me so miserable and sad when I identify this in myself and realize I've acted unlike Christ when I should not have.

    I hope you will forgive us for our shortcomings and you will find even Baptists who love you for who you are - a special lady indeed!

  4. Allie,

    I'd be good with that. I think there should be space and time available for any students who want to pray or what have you while they're at school.

  5. Sol,

    'over zealous' and 'Baptist' do go together sometimes. :)

    You had to stand on the desks? Why?

    I think you turned out okay too! :)

    If we were talking about public school, then any religious activity would be voluntary. So the child would be choosing which group to attend. Which is different from having a specific interpretation be the default teaching. Going to a Christian school, though, you get the angle of the denomination that runs the place. Even when they say it's non-denominational. So I guess that's something that parents should take into account and be aware of.

    Playground, lunch area, hallways, etc. They were *everywhere*. And yes, a lot of Ned Flanders jokes were made.

  6. Susanne,

    It's not that they have groups that meet that bugs me. It doesn't. They should have the right and opportunity to do that. It's the...I don't know, the publicness of it. Maybe it's just me being weirdly sensitive, but it's like...I felt judged, by some of them. And as though they were pushing their faith on the rest of us. Which was likely not their intention.

    I'm sure they gathered for community and made it public as a sort of witness, to draw people in who might be curious, etc. An evangelization method that is fairly soft and friendly.

    *laughs* Did you miss my comment that 'Susanne was slowly teaching me better'? I no longer judge Southern (or otherwise) Baptists by their title. Or I try not to. It's a process!

  7. I thought I would do a quick poll at work. And mostly it would seem that due to so many immigrants now in the UK, they no longer have prayers at school or assemblys with singing.

    there are rarely nativity plays, or pageants for easter.

    So I guess my previous comments are now defunct. as they arent current. I dont know if this just the schools in this area, as it is so multi-cultural. Or if is a think for the whole of England and the rest of the uk.

    Sorry, I dont have children so, I have no idea.

    I will soon know though, as my Great Niece is going to my old Primary schools. so that will be a really interesting comparison.

  8. oh and no idea why we had to stand on the desk. you had to read aloud standing on your chair.

    I suppose it was to make you focus on what you were doing? on the words or something

    now it wouldnt be allowed as health and safety would be all over that!

  9. That doesn't surprise me, that it's no longer done. Too explicitly Christian in a world that is more and more diverse.

    I still wonder what the point of standing on the desks was! I guess it will have to be a mystery forever!


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