Today I read a news bit on CNN about a judge in Florida who ruled in favor of two Florida school administrators who faced contempt charges for saying a prayer at a school luncheon. The two Florida school officials, Frank Lay, principal of Pace High School in Pace, Florida, and school athletic director Robert Freeman, could have faced up to six months in prison and fines if convicted.
Apparently the Civil Liberties Union brought court action based on the belief that students have a right to be free from administrators who foist their personal religious beliefs on them. And on that fact they are correct, nobody should have personal religious beliefs imposed on them.
However, merely saying a prayer is not imposing beliefs. It is not the same as evangelizing or mandating that the students change their beliefs. It’s a simple prayer. And if a student’s personal belief system does not incorporate a god or prayer, then he or she is free to ignore the prayer.
Certainly students who can ignore a teacher’s academic lecture can ignore a prayer that may last a matter of a few seconds.
In this whole debate over the separation of church and state, I agree that the state should not meddle in telling people what to believe or what not to believe when it comes to religion. And I also think it should not be telling people when and how they can pray. I respect an agnostic’s or atheist’s right to not believe, but I also ask that they respect other people’s right to believe.
Standing in a respectful silence during a prayer, whether it be in a family, school, or civic setting is a perfectly good choice for a non-believer.