Arkansas State Representative: Kids Can’t Say Prayers in School? Then Let Them Sing Prayers!

The Arkansas Department of Education says that pre-schools receiving taxpayer funding cannot teach religion or pray. That’s a good thing, too, since one of the schools — Growing God’s Kingdom — has received over $2,600,000 over the past several years. Now, they shouldn’t be receiving anything.

This is how bad it was there:

Staff members are required to “share the love of Jesus” with students, and the school operates with a Christian curriculum that includes a “Bible time” for verses, stories and prayer. The handbook assures parents that staff members will “strive too [sic] ensure that your child feels the love of Jesus Christ while preparing them for Kindergarten.” The preschoolers, it continues, will be taught “the word of God” so that they can “spread the word of God to others.”

Here’s the kicker: The school is run by Justin Harris who is also a member of the state’s House of Representatives — where he sits on the Committee on Education (*sigh*). And Harris thinks he’s found a way to beat the system: If the kids can’t say their prayers, then just let them sing!

Justin Harris

Republican Representative Justin Harris told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that “it just dawned” on him that the students could sing a prayer.

How many loopholes is this guy going to search for before it dawns on him the whole idea is illegal?

At least a few of his colleagues are telling him that won’t work:

Democratic Representative Johnnie Roebuck said Harris will lose funding if the prayer is sung and state Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb says prayer songs have not been approved.

This isn’t the first time Harris has funneled taxpayer money to his Proselytizing Pre-school, either.

How the rest of the Arkansas government lets him get away with all this, I don’t know, but I have no doubt that Harris would be up in arms if taxpayer money was being used to support Muslim schools or atheist schools. Yet, when it supports his faith and his church, he’s perfectly fine with wasting millions of dollars on religious brainwashing.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Stev84

    Conflict of interest anyone? Aren’t there are ethics rules and laws against this kind of thing?

  • Evertonian

    Why would the atheist community care if evolved animals want to pray in school? It is just a weird chemical reaction going on inside their head that is causing them to act this way.

    And how does the atheist conclude that the chemical reaction going on in his head…..the one that tells him praying in school is wrong…. how does he know this thought is righttrue?

    Guys…If you want to be consistent to your atheistic worldview, you shouldn’t care.

  • GloomCookie613

    No chemical analysis needed. It’s about the seperation of church and state. But, hey, have fun with your delusions!

  • GodVlogger

    I think it would be irresponsible to not care when $2.6-million dollars of our taxpayer money has been spent on religious indoctrination illegally (going against the US Constitution and the state’s own Dept. of Education rules).

  • jdm8

     Nice straw man you have going there.

  • Sindigo

    “I have no doubt that Harris would be up in arms if taxpayer money was being used to support Muslim schools or atheist schools.”

    I know this is a little off-topic but I hate to hear this kind of statement. Though it may be true, unless we hear it from the person in question, their voting record confirms it or there is some other evidence we can’t know that this is the case. This sort of speculation does nothing for our argument and we hear it far too much.

  • Blacksheep

    That’s not a straw man.

  • Gus Snarp

    Hey, since Sindigo has reflected that we shouldn’t assume anyone would feel differently about Muslim groups than Christian groups, maybe you’d like to supply your thoughts on this, since you seem to be a Christian who thinks government funded pre-schools should be able to promote Christianity. How would you feel about 2.6 million of you and your neighbors’ tax dollars going to fund a pre-school where daily Muslim prayers and glorifying Allah were a core part of the curriculum?

  • Gus Snarp

    Actually, for state legislators, there usually isn’t. 

  • Brian Westley

    Of course it’s a straw man, sockpuppet.  It’s the typical brain-dead godbotherer telling atheists what we shouldn’t be upset about.  It’s not just a straw man, it’s a straw man by someone who is clearly a complete fuckheaded idiot.

  • Baal

     Understanding physics and probability that underlie a baseball game enhances the enjoyment of the sport and doesn’t reduce it to the Vulcan hyper-logical straw man.  Understanding the chemistry and other science of the brain doesn’t change our cultural understanding that it’s wrongful to teach your version of super-natualism to other peoples children.   Also, it’s against the law.

    Why do christians have such a hard time acting within the meaning of the law and are endlessly looking for legalistic loopholes to engage in unlawful behavior?

  • MegaZeusThor

    That’s exactly the test. Float a story about children singing from the Koran and sharing the love of Mohammad and see if anyone flips out. If people do (or hypothetically very likely would), then Christian version is no more appropriate. 

  • RobertoTheChi

    No… it’s just pure stupidity.

  • RobertoTheChi

    Ever hear of the separation of church and state?

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

     “Though it may be true, unless we hear it from the person in question, their voting record confirms it or there is some other evidence we can’t know that this is the case. ”
    Generally, people who are tolerant and progressive enough to want to promote or at least protect all religions and faiths equally  understand why separation of church and state is necessary. The ones who don’t are the ones who feel that their religion should get special treatment.

    You’re right in that it’s an assumption and one out of every thousand times it might be wrong, but it’s not a really unfair assumption to make. 

  • Gyp

    Please put a Pinterest Pin on your blog!  I love putting your links up on my boards.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    LOL. Look how inconstant Brian’s response is. In his worldview, my brain chemically reacted to write what I wrote…. and his brain chemically reacted to have a differing opinion. Why in the world are you so mad Bri? Why is one chemical reaction getting mad at another.

    BTW… Given your worldview, what is wrong with strawman arguments? Are there certain laws of logic that we must adhere to when engaging in debate? If there are, where did these logical absolutes come from?

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    Wow, what a clumsy, ham-handed attempt at trolling. Well even though you’re just being an ass and asking stupid rhetorical questions to distort the issue, I’m going to answer them because apparently you superstitious types think you can gotcha us with some really, basic, easily explained stuff…

    “Why would the atheist community care if evolved animals want to pray in school?”

    Because we are also evolved animals of the same species that share a society, an ecosystem, and a planet with them, and we want to keep evolving as a society and move past iron-age Palestinian goat-herder myths.
    “how does he know this thought is righttrue?”He doesn’t, he goes by best probability. It  is entirely possible that we are all in The Matrix and none of this is real. But without – and here’s that word – evidence – of a Matrix it’s pointless to think about dealing with it if nothing indicates that it’s there. Same goes for gods and afterlives.

  • Coyotenose

    Strawpuppet, please go post this on your Facebook page so that your friends can learn how indefensibly ignorant and dishonest you are. You’ll be doing them a favor, as they’ll then know to not bother with you in the future.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    My Science…

    That’s exactly what I wanted you to admit…”that we could be in the Matrix”. Thanks bro. You have proven that the atheist worldview is easily reduced to absurdity. Seriously, do you really think it is a possibilty that we are stuck inside the Matrix?

  • RobMcCune

     Brian’s response isn’t inconstant he hasn’t edited it once.

  • RobMcCune


    Why would the atheist community care if evolved animals want to pray in school?

    The problem is the school is proselytizing, so yeah it’s a strawman. His reductio ad absurdum trolling is also a strawman.

    Maybe you need to read this:

  • CanadianNihilist

     I think you’re confusing atheists with nihilists. But even I try to avoid obvious and well known logical fallacies; So as to not appear retarded.

    Although your brain may be running off one chemical reaction the majority of us have a complicated network of synapses firing off by the nanosecond and at least rudimentary educations that we couple with experience and philosophy to form cohesive thought patterns.
    Using said thought patterns we define our personalities and throughout life derive a general sense of right and wrong (for the most part), and just sometimes an understanding of what our local institutions consider right and wrong.
    In The United States of America school funded prayer, or any government sponsored/enforced prayer, is unequivocally  wrong.
    Therefore people are understandably upset with your pathetic excuses for an argument on a subject that you’ve already lost the debate to before you even started.

  • TheBlackCat

    “So let them eat cake”

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    Nice Ad Hom

  • TheBlackCat

     Prove we aren’t.

  • TheBlackCat

     Why do you hate chemical reactions so much?  Just because something is a chemical reaction doesn’t mean it doesn’t have feelings. 

  • Sven

    “If you want to be consistent to your atheistic worldview, you shouldn’t care.”

    You clearly don’t understand the secular worldview: that government (including government schools) should be neutral in religious affairs.

    If your misrepresentation is deliberate, this is a straw-man.
    If your misrepresentation is a misunderstanding, then you are ignorant.

  • wright1

     Seriously, do you really think everyone is somehow prevented from reading the sentence immediately after the one you quote-mined?

    This one, since your reading comprehension seems to be so challenged:
    “But without – and here’s that word – evidence – of a Matrix it’s
    pointless to think about dealing with it if nothing indicates that it’s

  • TheBlackCat

    No, it isn’t.  Not the least of which because Rob wasn’t using it an an argument.

  • TheBlackCat

     Most brain activity is not due to chemical reactions, actually.  It is due to the flow of charges particles and interactions between chemicals.  If you are going to start making up positions for us at least get the science right.

  • amycas

     So you saw the phrase “…could be in the Matrix” and just stopped reading. Thanks for that, now I know you’re not reading for comprehension and understanding.

  • TychaBrahe

    I don’t think 

    Staff members are required to “share the love of Jesus” with students, and the school operates with a Christian curriculum that includes a “Bible time” for verses, stories and prayer. The handbook assures parents that staff members will “strive too [sic] ensure that your child feels the love of Jesus Christ while preparing them for Kindergarten.” The preschoolers, it continues, will be taught “the word of God” so that they can “spread the word of God to others.”

    is such a horrible thing from a school called Growing God’s Kingdom.  It’s kind of like complaining that a Jewish school required boys to wear kipot.  

    The problem is the taxpayer money going to this school, which would be wrong even if the only prayer were teacher-led grace over lunch.

  • TheBlackCat

     Well, we know he or she is ignorant because of the totally botched science and the completely wrong understanding of logical fallacies.  So it is more a question of ignorant and malicious, or just ignorant.  Giving the condescending tone I would bet on the former.

  • Brian Westley

    “In his worldview, my brain chemically reacted to write what I wrote….”

    Ah, more lies from a fuckheaded idiot, pretending to tell atheists what they believe.

    “BTW… Given your worldview, what is wrong with strawman arguments?”

    Given that you’re just an idiot troll, there’s no point in this conversation.  And your football team sucks.

  • Brian Westley

    “Evertonian” isn’t on speaking terms with logic.

  • Persephone

     It doesn’t work that way.

  • RobMcCune

     So, do you believe the only reason we are able to determine anything at all is because of God? Wouldn’t that make a Berkeleyian-something*?

    *George, not UC

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    Black Cat

    Is your “flow of charged particles” producing truth? Are mine producing falsehoods? Given your worlview, by what standard are you judging my thoughts to be un-true and yours to be true?

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    Given your worldview, is it possible we are stuck in the Matrix?

    If you are a consistent atheist, you will have to answer yes. You don’t believe there are absolutes, therefore you can’t be absolutely certain we are not stuck in the Matrix.

    If you do admit we could be in the Matrix, my point is made. ABSURD

  • Brian Westley

    You HAVE no point.  You’re an idiot troll.  And solipsism works under EVERY worldview, even ones with “absolutes.”

    But since you’re just a fuckheaded idiot troll, just continue to vomit out your babble.  Nobody here believes you for a moment.

  • Brian Westley

    Given that your babblings are just photons emitted from my computer screen, your views are random Brownian motion.  Fuckhead.

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    Are the laws of logic absolute? If they are, how can you account for logical absolutes in a random-chance universe?

    If they are not absolute, then you should have no problem with me being illogical.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    Yes. Thank you Rob. I’m saying we can’t account for our reasoning, absolute laws of logic and knowledge in an atheistic universe.

    That is the I have been driving at. Read these comments again carefully, and you will see how the atheist can’t account for the absolutes they live by. ;)

  • TheBlackCat

    I judge it based on the evidence. 

  • TheBlackCat

    First, my worldview doesn’t say the universe isn’t “random-chance”, it is governed by laws. 

    Second, mathematics, of which formal logic is but a branch, is not dependent on the universe, so even if the universe was random the laws of mathematics would not be.

  • TheBlackCat

    Evertonian  was arguing it wasn’t a possibility, but provided no argument to support that conclusion.  By making a positive argument that something is outright impossible, the burden is on Evertonian to support that conclusion.

    MyScience, on the other hand, was drawing a tentative conclusion based on the lack of evidence, which is not a positive argument and as such does not need explicit support (the support is part of the argument, i.e. the lack of evidence).

  • michael both

    Ah, actually the ‘simulation argument’ is quite well known:
    I’m surprise you haven’t come across it before, you being such a well-educated, well-read and deep-thinking person and all.

  • michael both

    No, entirely possible, see my reply about the ‘simulation argument’. I dare you to find fault with the reasoning in the main paper:

  • Randomfactor
  • Randomfactor

     And why should we care about your UNevolved opinion?

  • Randomfactor

     Yeah, but it worked.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    Black Cat

    And with what tool do you evaluate this evidence? You use your reasoning to evaluate the evidence.

    So here is my question: Given your atheistic worldview, how do you know your reasoning is valid?

  • Mark

    Anyways, now that we’re done *not feeding the troll*, I’d also like to point out that there’s a conflict of interest here.  Guy runs school, guy also sits on committee that provides funding to schools… Don’t US states have rules about that sort of thing?

  • Brian Westley

    Hey fuckhead, what do you care if the laws of logic are absolute?  You never use them.  Fuck off, moron.

  • Brian Westley

    The only “tool” here is you, idiot troll.

  • Brian Westley

    “we can’t account for our reasoning”

    What do you mean, “we” fuckhead?  You don’t use reasoning.

  • TheBlackCat

     I don’t.  We do the best given the tools we have available.  These tools work very well, and we have no reason to think they won’t continue to work well in the future. 

    We have more reason to think the tools will work then you do, since in your worldview God may just arbitrarily decide to break the rules, or outright change them, at any point.  In my world-view, however, the universe is self-contained, there is no tinkerer making random changes here and there on some incomprehensible whim. 

    So in my world-view,  if something works consistently I can have every expectation it will continue to do so.  You have no such luxury, you have to assume that at any moment something totally bizarre and unexpected might happen (food falling from the sky, rivers turning to blood, giant locusts with human faces devouring the planet, etc).  How can you even get out of bed in the morning with so much uncertainty, knowing God might want to pull a Job on you and destroy your life for no reason?

  • Greg1466

    While I suspect that your point is true that he would object to tax money going to schools that teach something other than his religion, I also suspect that the operative word in the phrase  “funneled taxpayer money to his Proselytizing Pre-school” is “his”.

  • Edmond

    KIDS can pray all they want, under their own motivations (provided it doesn’t interfere with class work).  But TEACHERS who are on the gov’t dime may not act as their prayer LEADERS.  The gov’t is NOT in the business of paying people to impart their personal favorite myths as part of an education curriculum.

    If the school wants to play the role of “spiritual guide”, then they need to do it with their own money.

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    I know my argument for Christianity can be frustrating. However, I do not believe it warrants the verbal insults I have received from you. Let’s all talk about this with respect for eachother. I forgive you.

    I feel that some of you guys might be seeing some of the problems with your worldview. Let’s keep talking and get to the bottom of the argument.


  • TheBlackCat

     Baloney.  You have said nothing we have not heard a hundred times before. 

    You don’t have the foggiest idea what our worldview even is, you apparently picked up some standard strawman from someone and keep insisting we have to conform to that strawman. 

    You ignore anyone who tries to explain what they really think, instead trying to shoe-horn every statement anyone here makes into this imaginary worldview.

  • Brian Westley

    “I know my argument for Christianity can be frustrating.”

    You HAVE no argument, idiot troll.  Fuck off.

    “However, I do not believe it warrants the verbal insults I have received from you.”

    Go suck Jesus’ infected dick, you fuckheaded troller.

    “Let’s all talk about this with respect for each other.”

    Fuck off, moron.  You aren’t worth the keystrokes.

  • 3lemenope

    Not all atheists are reductive materialists. The criticism assumes that atheists are all reductive materialists (else it just doesn’t make any sense). Hence, it is a strawman.

    Even if all atheists were reductive materialists, it still wouldn’t make the critique *correct*, by any means. It’s still a bad argument, as it unclear on what grounds a person could possibly make any sort of valid deduction on matters of axiology from ontological observations. It just also happens to depend on stuffing atheist-shaped scarecrows with straw.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    For those who would like to continue this conversation or if you just want sharpen your arguments against this form of apologetic

    Go to

    We will keep a running debate

  • Aaron Scoggin

    *Sigh* You can still pray in school all day long if you want. It’s just that it can’t be mandated (lead by teachers, etc). And.. Why is money going to a place that is obviously religious?

  • Brian Westley

    What “conversation,” fuckhead?

  • 3lemenope

    I know my argument for Christianity can be frustrating.

    Is that what this was?

  • matt

      So you’re saying that everything in the universe is divinely derived …Ok, so how does that make Christianity correct?

    Do you really think that the hypothetical creator of the universe would need to birth himself into mankind just to sacrifice himself to himself? 
    And for the sins of the imperfect beings HE created no less…

    Christianity has borrowed much from previous myths before it and it is, just like all others, an awesome tool for manipulation.

    Furthermore, this “holy book” in which god condones murder, rape, misogyny and slavery, contains NOTHING about chemistry, mathematics, physics or medicine.

    Its a sham, just like the others.

  • Gus Snarp

    It’s worse than that. It assumes that all secularists are reductive materialists. He or she ought to provide an argument as to why, given two centuries of consistent court interpretation of the first amendment, anyone would find it acceptable to spend tax money on a school promoting religion and leading children in prayer as the core of the curriculum. And there’s no reason whatsoever that someone who finds that unacceptable should be an atheist. A Christian could (and should, and most who aren’t fundamentalists would) easily find this use of tax dollars inconsistent with fundamental governing principles of a democratic society.

  • TheBlackCat

     There is no conversation.  A conversation involves peoples talking to each other, not one person saying whatever he or she pleases and ignoring what everyone else says. 

    There is also no debate.  A debate involves people presenting their sides and then discussing those sides.  You have not presented your side, and you have no interest in discussing our side, you only care about lecturing us about an imaginary position none of us actually hold.

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    What absolute standard of morality are you appealing to when you object to the murder and rape in the bible?

    Are you borrowing from the Christian worldview again? You are.

    Remember.. You’re an atheist. This universe came about by pure chance. You can’t account for right and wrong or absolute morality. Any concept of right and wrong that you have is completely arbitrary.

    You would do much better and be more consistent to rid yourself of all absolutes. Laws of logic, morality and absolute knowledge all have to go. Be consistent.

  • 3lemenope

    The reason you fail, here, is because you assume a whole host of things must be true about what atheists believe that in fact are either not true at all or are not necessarily true about atheism. This is the reason why most people quite rightly aren’t taking you seriously at all. 

    It’s like a person wandering into a Christian discussion and telling everyone they must admit they actually pray to three gods because of the trinity, or that they should admit they are ritual cannibals because of  the Eucharist. Much of the stuff you’ve been spouting is that far off base.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    Okay fine. Ask me whatever you want and I’ll answer. Go

  • TheBlackCat

     Here’s a question for you, then: where did you get your ideas about what our worldview is?

  • Evertoniancalvinist


    So you are saying my assumptions concerning atheism are off base. Okay then… set me straight.

    As an atheist, 3lem, what do you think buddy? Are there logical/moral absolutes in your world?

  • westley







  • westley

    As a Calvinist moron, why do you think you have a god-given right to be a total asshole?

  • westley

    By the way, you forgot
    to fuck off, dickhead.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    Black Cat

    Answer: I’m making the assumption that you believe the universe came into existence by pure chance. No God created it. If my assumption is correct then you would have no room for Absolutes in your worldview. However, you live, talk and think in such a way as if there are Absolutes.

    So… I think the problem you guys have is accounting for the Absolutes you live by when Absolutes shouldn’t exist in an atheistic universe.

    Tell me what kind of atheist you are if I have misunderstood your position.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I live in Arkansas. He’s getting away with this because if he didn’t, people would be calling for blood. You don’t “deny the Lord” here. At least not in my corner of AR. I had my car vandalized by a coworker after coming out. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yup. We shouldn’t care that laws are being broken and rights are being stepped on. 

    Go concern troll elsewhere. 

  • Brian Scott

    Presuppositionalism is really not something to sharpen wits against. At best, it’s mere assertion because it is as arbitrary as any other axiomatic system.

    Truth is what makes the future less surprising. A worldview like Calvinism that attempts to impose its requirements and reifications of Truth and Goodness is inconsequential.

  • Brian Scott

    We do not account for absolute laws of logic and knowledge. Those are human constructs in themselves: methodologies for making accurate predictions.

    If you try to impose idealistic reifications on a materialist (not necessarily atheist) world view, you may come out with absurdities. But that is not a point against that world view.

  • Brian Scott

    I don’t think acknowledgement of a self-contained causal universe is inconsistent with reaction to this situation. Nor does defining morality cause this worldview to fail, any more than defining what is beautiful or delicious.

  • Brian Scott

    I’m not even certain why it even works against reductive materialism.

  • amycas

     And yet again, you show that you’re not reading for comprehension or understanding. You just ask stupid questions that have already been answered and then ignore the answers. I’m not playing your game so you can fuck right off.

  • amycas

     You haven’t made an argument for Christianity. You came on here and made an arrogant post claiming to know what we as atheists believe. Then when others tried to explain it, you latched onto one part of the explanation and obviously didn’t read or comprehend the rest. We’re not friends. You don’t get to come in here and derail a conversation, not listen to anyone else, and then try to be friends. That’s not how this works.

  • Sindigo

    It may not be an unfair assumption but it’s still unwarranted. We shouldn’t feel the need to assume anything. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong. 

    And don’t forget, many theists assume that if you’re an atheist, you’re a devil worshipper. They wouldn’t consider that an unfair assumption to make. I know they’re not equivalent but you know what I mean.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    That’s Louisiana, not Missouri. ;)

  • Gus Snarp

    On that count, I refuse to even engage his argument. It’s just silly.

  • Ned Ludd

    I am just waiting until Justin Harris comes out of the closet, not the atheist one.

  • Koalalvr1

    What a great idea! Our country was founded on God andreligiousfreedom so what’s wrong with prayer. If their parents don’t want them praying then send them somewhere else. If we had more prayer in schools we might have less trouble.

  • melissa

    My choir used to sing religious songs….

  • Weeliljessi

    If they want to share the word of god, and indoctrinate children into Christianity let them do it without stealing taxpayer money. Obviously his faith didn’t make him any less of a theif.

  • Amonymous

    prayer spoken or sang or rapped…its prayer and illegal in school

  • atinele86

    If taxpayer money was used to pay for muslim or atheist schools<—THAT would be ridiculous. This country, the united states of america was funded under christian principles so if taxpayer money is used for a christian school, so be it. Whoever doesnt like it can put their child in any other school of their choice.

  • atinele86

    there are conflics of interest even in the food industry.

  • TheBlackCat13

    Necro warning!

    Baloney. The country was founded on secular enlightenment principles, with cues taken from pagan republics like Athens and Rome and British common law that far predates Christianity. Many of the founding fathers were deist, not Christian, and some were openly hostile to Christianity.