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Misquided legislation on prayers in school

Many American youngsters who pray regularly -- silently, individually, in the classroom, in the corridors, or elsewhere at school -- may very well be perplexed that proponents of government-administered audible prayer in public schools want to know, "Are we going to bring God back to our schools?" Pupils who have learned of the great benefits of turning to God in prayer at home or in the church -- the proper places for such learning -- no doubt are aware that God has never left their school.

In outlawing school-sponsored prayers and Bible readings in public schools, the US Supreme Court did not infringe on an individual's right to pray. Nor did the court prohibit voluntary, silent prayers or meditation in classrooms. Many states, in fact, allow for such interludes in the school day.

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But the court in its 1962 and 1963 decisions did wisely reinforce the constitutional barrier that separates church and state. The current well-intentioned but misguided efforts to have Congress abolish the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and lower federal courts over state laws dealing with "voluntary" school prayers should be resisted as a potentially dangerous breach of the separation of church and state doctrine.

Religious leaders representing a majority of Christians and Jews in the US have come out strongly against the legislation, arguing cogently that "relgious must remain voluntary if it is to remain free." As one clergyman put it, "Religion and prayer are too important to allow government at any level to intrude, to prescribe prayers, to regiment devotions, or to homogenize and trivialize religious expression."

Moreover, the Justice Department has concluded that a bill denying the courts juridiction over such matters would very likely be ruled unconstitutional.

Certainly America's troubled schools need the continuing prayers and support of all citizens. And parents should encourage their children to pray at school by setting examples at home. No government "help" is needed to make praying effectual.

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