Memo to Indiana Republicans: Reciting the Lord’s Prayer in School Won’t Make Students Better Citizens

Three Republican state senators in Indiana have a plan to fix public education in the state: Have someone recite the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of every school day.

Really. It’s Senate Bill No. 25 (PDF):

In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen, the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students.

Since when is “spiritual development” important in becoming a good citizen?! Being an ethical person doesn’t result from believe in bullshit. It comes from a variety of sources, including good parenting, strong role models, and the ability to think reasonably and rationally through situations.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Jim Tomes and co-authored by Senators Dennis Kruse and Travis Holdman.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what they’re talking about, this is the kind of Christian prayer the senators believe schools need:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

That’s Matthew 6:9-13.

Wanna know what’s written just a few lines before that in Matthew 6:5?

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others…

Bingo.

Doug Masson explains that they could use a slightly less Christian-y prayer, but even that would pose a problem:

They could just as easily have said prayer generically, knowing that given demographics, the prayer would always be either neutral or some flavor of Christianity. It would never be anything contrary to Christianity, but at least they’d have a fig leaf of neutrality. But, by raising up The Lord’s Prayer, they aren’t even pretending that non-Christian religions are entitled to anything like equal consideration.

Sure, the bill would allow you to walk out of class if you don’t want to participate, but the senators don’t seem to give a shit about the inevitable ostracism, hostility, and teasing those students would face.

If you live in Indiana, please contact your local representatives and give them hell about this awful and unconstitutional piece of legislation.

(Thanks to Tushar for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • spook

    So…  Engel v. Vitale isn’t ringing a bell?

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      You’re assuming they have a bell in their belfry to ring. 

    • Rich Wilson

      And the day after Jessica Ahlquist’s case.  I know, this was in the works well before that decision came down, but it’s still kinda funny.  Even Jessica’s school stopped reciting the prayer in 1962, because of Engel v. Vitale.

      I wish there was a way for the state to recoup costs from a lawmaker who proposes something so blatantly unconstitutional.

  • Anonymous

    The cynic in me says the three stooges above actually know that what they propose is blatantly unlawful, but do it anyway to kick start controversy. The controversy, in turn, primes the pump for election-year campaign contributions to start flowing their way. Ironically, instead of holding our freedoms for ransom, these petty thugs will demand contributions in order to actively undermine, subvert, and ultimately destroy our freedom.

    However, the realist in me has a different take. The above analysis gives these three far too much Machiavellian credit, and they are sim

    • EJC

      I have to agree with you here. This is such a cynical method of getting donations to flow under the rubric of “freedom” and a “xian nation”…and the two issues that truly piss me off are:

      (a) We the taxpayers end up paying for the lawsuits to fight this bullshit. This REALLY REALLY pisses me off. They break the law, and then they use taxpayer dollars to DEFEND themselves and the breach of Constitution

      (b) How can ANYONE allow these fuckers to get an office? I mean, how dumbed down has the “Murican public become that they willingly allow the degradation of law and freedoms?

      America is such a broken empire. I mean, with the exception of the US Postal Service (which is eroding now too), there is no such thing as American Exceptionalism anymore.

  • Jeff

    Living in Indiana, I felt compelled to email my state senator(not one of these) and ask his thoughts on it. I’ll share the reply if I get one.

  • Michael

    It might not be so bad if the prayer they chose had anything about being a good person in it.

    • Entertaining Doubts

      That’s exactly what I was thinking, Michael. How the hell does groveling in front of a genocidal tyrant teach a kid to become a responsible citizen? Seems like the very opposite of moral reasoning to me.
      Also, don’t they realize how much this type of compulsory recitation smacks of the very totalitarianism they claim to oppose as “patriotik ‘Murkins”?

      • Michael

        There are prayers though which say stuff on the lines of “Help us to remember that punching random strangers in the face is something we shouldn’t do” that would be much more useful to recite in schools than … let me just render that into plain English.

        Big guy up there, we like you you’re doing stuff we’ll do stuff for you like other people do too. Got anything to eat? If you don’t hold a grudge then neither will we. Please don’t make us bad. But make us not-bad. Cause you’re the one with the cool stuff who makes a difference always. Peace out.

        Okay, so hidden in there is “Don’t hold grudges” but that’s kinda minor compared to all the valuable moral lessons you should be teaching people. I think I maybe got more morality into there by translating “Amen” as “Peace out” than the rest of it. It’s one of the most popular and most meaningless prayers there is.

  • Pureone

    Those Catholic kids will have to listen to the wrong version with that doxology stuff…

  • george.w

    It doesn’t even fit every version of Christianity. I wonder how being exposed to a Christian prayer will make a Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or atheist student feel more patriotic and more like a member of society? 

    I live in a small city in Illinois and we have all of those. Urban areas are even more diverse. But you know, they really don’t give a rip about anyone who isn’t like them.

  • Jo

    What on earth is so hard for these people to understand?

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Since these three schmucks don’t know the basic freedoms guaranteed to Americans, the legal frame work of our country, or the history of your country, I would say that they are the ones in need for a civics lesson.

  • Melissa0859

    When I was 17, in the late 70′s, I started in a brand new high school, in upstate NY.  Every day, they played the Pledge, or the National Anthem over the loudspeaker at the beginning of school(I honestly can’t remember which!). There were no homerooms. We all hung out in a big assembly-type space before first class. After a week of being told, “please remain standing for a moment of silence” afterwards, I stopped doing that. I knew what this was. After coming over and harassing me for a couple of weeks, they gave up. I said, “If this is required, take me to the principals office, or whatever it is you do”. Even in the  Northeast, I didn’t make an overwhelming number of friends in my short time there. And the teachers were kind of uncomfortable around the heathen. Ha.

    • EJC

      The northeast is whack-a-doo crazy.

      I inherited some property in the Adirondacks, as that place, as near as I can figure, is the worst mix of hill-billies, christian whack jobs, and bitter rednecks as is possible. Pity they are in such a beautiful set of mountains though!

      (and I did my undergrad at Syracuse. Great school, HORRID city)

  • Kaoru Negisa

    Just as a note: all three of these senators are clearly Christian with a background that involves the Lord’s Prayer, and yet it doesn’t seem to have helped them build the character necessary to not blatantly violate the law. They’re proof that their own idea won’t work.

    • Entertaining Doubts

      Ex-fucking-actly. Prioritizing religious dogma over rational (small-d) democratic enlightenment principles = a license to do whatever the hell you want as long as your god tells you it’s the right thing to do. Anybody who opposes can automatically be ignored or vilified as “a tool of satan” or “ensnared by worldly concerns” or whatever.

  • Volunteer

    motherofgod.jpeg

  • Gus Snarp

    This whole Matthew 6:5 thing comes up a lot: in this post, every time someone talks about Tebow, let’s face it, modern Christians leave themselves wide open to charges of hypocrisy on this one, and I think the charges stick. But just for informational purposes, as a former evangelical Christian, it might interest some of you who aren’t aware of this to know just how strongly the teachings of evangelical Christianity completely contradict Matthew 6:5. The very notion of evangelicalism is completely opposed to this verse. What these people are being taught by their pastors is that they should flaunt their Christianity, make a point of it, pray publicly, talk about Jesus every chance they get, even create those chances. It’s their duty to show an example of living a Christian life every day.  Once again what they’ve done is interpreted one part of the Bible in such a way that it completely justifies their flagrant disobedience of another part of the Bible. Obviously that’s not hard to do given how often the Bible contradicts itself.

  • Anonymous

    Kruse is also sponsoring an anti-evolution bill in Indiana currently: 
    http://ncse.com/news/2011/12/creationist-legislation-indiana-007001

    They good legislators of the good state of Indiana also want to outlaw singing the Star Spangled Banner inappropriately. http://www.indystar.com/article/20111230/LOCAL/112300334/Singing-anthem-you-doing-right-?  Amazingly enough, this bill is not sponsored by Kruse. What the hell is going on over there in my home state? There’s enough crazy coming out of there in the past few weeks to fill my blog posts for a week *runs off to compose post about all the stupidity happening in the Hoosier state….*

    • EJC

      Love your moniker!

      The only place in the Cinci area I like is Batavia – at Sportys. As a pilot, that place ROCKS!!!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks. I live on the north east side of town, in Mason. Surrounded by Christian conservative Republicans. ;-)

        • Gus Snarp

          West Side here. No shortage of conservative, Catholic Republicans here either!

  • observer

    Wow…a prayer with just a few lines before telling you it makes you a hypocrite to pray in public, especially to make yourself public. At risk of the no true Scotsman fallacy, can we even call these people Christians?Additionally, isn’t this going against the concept of freewill/predetermination, using God to make people more civilized.?…of course, considering that these people are already breaking their god’s rulebook, I guess that’s a redundant question…

  • http://www.facebook.com/roccim Marlo Rocci

    The unconstitutionality of this makes my brain hurt.  Make it stop!

  • Scout

    I also sent an email to my state senator; he’s a Republican :( so who knows.  Gagh!!!  I find politics fascinating and loathsome at the same time.

  • SJH

    It probably is not great public policy to require that kids recite prayers in class  and is likely unconstitutional.

    Again, this is why the state should not be educating. Please, everyone send your kids to private schools so that they can be properly educated in a way that is consistent with the beliefs of each child’s parents. Lets keep diversity and morality alive and allow our children to thrive.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      This is why the state should not be educating? Because they are providing a secular education that neither promotes nor discourages any particular religion? Funny, I always thought that was one of the strengths of our public school system, bringing together children from a wide variety of backgrounds and treating them all equally regardless of what religion their parents happen to follow.

      There isn’t much “diversity” in a school filled with children whose parents all follow the same religion. And as for “morality,” that  has nothing to do with whether or not the school is religious. I know people who were pulled out of Catholic school because they were subjected to violent, vicious bullying. Those children recited prayers and attended a daily religious class along with weekly worship services, yet they still tormented each other mercilessly. 

      You apparently want to get rid of public education. You exhort parents to send their children to private schools, yet you do not seem to realize that many (perhaps most) parents in this country cannot afford a private education, and many more do not wish for one.  Not all religious parents want their children to be educated in a segregated environment that promotes one religion as true. Many religious people welcome diversity and plurality and don’t want their children in a segregated school that leaves them unprepared for life in the real world.

      • SJH

        I was not specifically speaking about religious private schools thought the article was about school prayer. We should be sending our children to schools that reflect our values. If you  and your children value art then send your children to a school that focuses on art, if science is your thing, then a school that focuses on science. I value religion therefor I like schools which focus on the same religious beliefs.

        The problem with public schools is that they cannot teach morality since it is state funded and run. I can send my child to a private school that focuses on science but also teaches morality and values. Public schools tend to teach a morality that is dependent on the local political climate. I do not want my children’s values to be a function of the current political party or the activist who yells the loudest.

        Diversity comes from teaching children about their strengths and developing values. They may learn them in a segregated setting but they will go out to the diverse world and take their values with them thus making the society diverse. Public school take a diverse population and homogenizes it. This is, by nature, what government social programs do.

        I do not necessarily think that we should get rid of public education but I do think that what it offers is not always a positive for our nation. Certainly we can find ways to educate children without the government having to do it and pay for it. We are a charitable, loving people. I’m sure people will step up to the task.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          What on earth are you talking about? Of course public schools can teach morality. Have you ever been inside a public school? One of my parents is a kindergarten teacher. Her students learn about values every single day – kindness, sharing, responsibility, and so on. What do those things have to do with religion? Or politics? Are you seriously suggesting that conservative and liberal parents cannot agree that five-year-olds should be taught to take turns and be nice to each other?

          Morality and religion are two separate things. Public schools are not allowed to promote a particular religious viewpoint.  That has absolutely nothing to do with teaching morality. It simply means that they are not allowed to take a position on whether religions are true or whether gods exist. Parents should be glad for the separation of church and state. Christians wouldn’t be so quick to complain about it if they were the minority instead of the majority. It’s there to protect everyone.

          You are perfectly free to send your child to a religious school. But not everyone can afford to pay for a private education, and many people would prefer that their children go to public school with others in their community. I do not want my children in a private school, let alone a segregated school set aside for children whose parents share one particular viewpoint. I do not consider such children to be truly prepared for life in a diverse and pluralistic culture.

          When you say that all children in this society will be educated without being provided free schooling by the government, I can only assume you are ignorant of history. Before public education became a reality, many American children were not educated and did not go to school. Compare the literacy rate in the 1840s to the literacy rate today. Where is the money going to come from to educate all those millions of children? If you think your Christian churches are going to step in, why aren’t they running free schools for children now?

          • qo

            Ah, but Anna, I doubt SJH is preparing his/her children for a “diverse and pluralistic culture.”  S/he’s preparing them for a homogenous theocracy.  Scarey?  You bet!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Sure, the bill would allow you to walk out of class if you don’t want to participate, but the senators don’t seem to give a shit about the inevitable ostracism, hostility, and teasing those students would face.

    I think they’re counting on it, and worse. They’re just fine with bullying for Jesus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=724085372 Jennifer Lawrence

    I *do* live in Indiana and my elected representatives are about to get the worst earful of their lives.

    ~Jennifer

  • Anonymous

    I think at least half the the job of a Republican in the Indiana Senate is to repeatedly throw stupid stuff into committee.

  • Jeff

    Got an email yesterday from my State Senator:

    Dear Jeff,Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding SB 251. After
    looking into this bill, I was told that it will not receive a committee
    hearing.Again, thank you for your
    e-mail.Sincerely,Senator Ryan Mishler

  • http://www.MazzMuzik.com/ MizMazz

    If the goal is to get each student to “recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen”, then having them recite the lord’s prayer is SO lacking in imagination!

    Why not have them devise their own “prayer” and call it a “creed” or something? Let the students decide what is important to remember / meditate on – keeping the goal in mind – and then have them recite THAT every day!? It would have more impact and they might actually internalize it better, since it’s something THEY come up with! You might actually get kids thinking more about ways to participate in their own character growth…

    • MizMazz

      and, of course, it would turn it away from the unconstitutional activity of mixing christian views in with public schooling while simultaneously making it inclusive of all students of all degrees and types of faith!

  • me!

    the best thing about all of this….JESUS loves YOU!  Freedom is for all….Jesus is hope and freedom!

  • Vivi_vivek

    why do you guys want to dictate something in their land. When schools in India can have prayer from religious faith here.. why can’t it happen like wise in America.. American was and is the largest Christian nation. They have their own faith and can practise very well in their land. Why is it so offending when say Lord’s prayer in school.


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