Indiana State Senator Files Bill Requiring Public Schools to Recite the Lord’s Prayer

Last year, Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Obviously) proposed a bill (PDF) to recite the Lord’s Prayer in public schools:

Dennis Kruse

The Lord’s Prayer, by the way, is written in Matthew 6:9-13.

If Kruse actually read that part of the Bible, he might have seen 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…

Mhmmm…

Anyway, the bill went nowhere because it’s blatantly unconstitutional.

A couple of weeks later, Kruse sponsored a bill that would promote Creationism in science class. Even worse, the state’s Senate Education Committee voted 8-2 in support of the bill! (It didn’t ultimately get passed, though, because it’s blatantly unconstitutional.)

So what’s Kruse up to now?

He’s (once again) trying to force kids in public schools to recite the Lord’s Prayer

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, has filed a bill that would allow school districts to require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, though individual students could opt out if they or their parents preferred.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has assigned it to the Senate’s rules and legislative procedure committee, often a burial ground for bills.

“My initial instincts were that it was probably unconstitutional,” Long, an attorney, said.

The Senate legal staff agreed, he said.

“It’s a clear violation of the interpretation of the First Amendment by the United States Supreme Court,” Long said, adding: “It’s not a personal opinion on my part.”

Andrew Seidel of FFRF weighed in, too:

“This is so blatantly unconstitutional, it’s amazing,” Seidel said.

And, he said, allowing students to opt out of the pray doesn’t make the bill constitutional.

“Courts have addressed that before,” he said. “Voluntariness does not excuse a constitutional violation.”

Kruse has to know his proposals are illegal. He may be stupid, but he’s not stupid. He’s pushing these bills for no other reason than to appease his conservative Christian fan base.

What surprises me is how this isn’t a bigger news story.

If Kruse proposed reading, not the Lord’s Prayer, but the prayer of any other religion, this would be national news. (Imagine if he suggested reading from the Koran? Yikes.) But we’re so used to Christian demagogues trying to push their faith into the school system that this story barely registers on the map.

Oh, by the way, in case you’re not apoplectic enough yet: Kruse is the chairman of the Senate education committee. He’s not just on it, he runs it!

Indiana, what the hell is wrong with you…?

(via Joe. My. God.)

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.

  • SeekerLancer

    I’m at a loss for words on this one.

  • GeraardSpergen

    The bill allows schools to require the recitation, it doesn’t require schools to require the recitation. Not that that makes it any less unconstitutional.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Ah haa. This sounds like a strategy to make it harder to fight the practice in Indiana. This way the individual schools would take the brunt of the lawsuits first, since they had voluntarily taken the state-permitted option to require reciting the prayer. The state would only be secondarily liable for its idiotic law, because the schools are not compelled to require reciting the prayer.

      So one lawsuit won’t necessarily stop the practice state-wide. There will have to be as many individual lawsuits as there are foolish school administrations that want to flout the Constitution. There could be dozens of school districts that think they can get away with it, or think the final cost is worth making their statement.

      I think it’s time to stop the practice of mercifully only suing the defendants for the court costs. These people aren’t going to learn until they’re slammed for very large amounts of money.

      • allein

        If one were to sue and win a large amount of money from the school district, could they then donate that money back to the district, earmarked for specific purposes…say, actual educational objectives/supplies/etc.? Sue for the principal of the matter and then make sure the kids get that money invested back into what it’s supposed to be used for in the first place. That’s what I’d do if I won a big payout.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          That’s a wonderful sentiment, downright noble, and I’d be very tempted to do the same. BUT…

          The problem with that lies in the deep capacity for cynicism in school boards that flout the law so blatantly. When word got out that the FFRF or any other plaintiff was doing that, the next potential violators would just think that they don’t have much to lose in a lawsuit, since the students will get the money back. Remember it’s not the school board members’ personal money, its their community’s money. So they’ll only feel pressured to avoid the lawsuit if they know that their community will be so pissed off at them for losing a fortune in public funds that they’ll be voted out of office.

          You can see this trait of cynical incorrigibility in State Senator Kruse. He definitely does not give a rat’s ass about the Indiana State Constitution or the Federal Constitution, or for the principles of freedom for all and equal protection. He feels fully justified to defile his position of public trust and to abuse his power because he thinks God is on his side. Public officials and school board members who think this way will only be stopped by very painful consequences, like getting kicked out of office for their recklessness.

          Maybe the money could be donated to a general educational charity, but sadly, not one that gives any money directly back to the schools that violate the Constitutions.

          • allein

            Good point. I was just thinking about the fact that the community should get the money back, because they shouldn’t have to pay for their leaders’ stupidity, but you’re right, they might just double down if they think the money will end up back where it belongs anyway. Damn.

  • baal

    Putting up these posturing bills isn’t all that uncommon but I do wish that legislators got more blowback from the media and their leaders for doing it. It’s not a zero-sum game. Committee time, bill vetting and such all have a cost.

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

      I wish politicians who submit posturing bills that they know will be struck in courts could be forced to repay the state for any costs incurred by said bill out of their campaign funds.

      • allein

        And then get voted out in the next election…

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    I’m starting to think Kruse is a corporate plant sent to bankrupt Indiana by continually dragging the state into sure-to-lose lawsuits until resulting budget problems force the government to outsource to private companies.

    • http://twitter.com/Alexthethinker Alex Abbott

      A lot of Indiana’s government already is outsourced to private companies, and I’m not sure if that’s an improvement.

  • raytheist

    Indiana? Heck, I thought all the numbskulls were here in Texas.

    • J-Rex

      Nope. Indiana is like the Texas of the north. We have relatives there so I find myself visiting every now and then when I can’t avoid it. There are framed pictures of George W. and Ronald Reagan on my grandparents’ wall. I just…*sighhh*…I wish I was kidding….

  • Kenneth

    And the public wonders why our education system is one of the worst in the developed world. Instead of taking on real issues these “leaders” are too busy focusing on their own twisted agenda. I’m deeply saddened :( by this, please keep us updated on the hopeful defeat of this bill.

  • rob

    HOLY CRAP! (pun intended)… :) ATHIEISTS GET OFF OF YOUR ASSES AND CALL, WRITE, VISIT YOUR REPS! Let them KNOW you VOTE and won’t take this crap any more!

  • ggsillars

    Hmmm… the Protestant version or the Catholic version? He’s in trouble before he even starts.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com/ Jaynn

      That confused the hell out of me when I was a kid. My elementary school would have us recite the Lord’s Prayer on certain occasions and I could never figure out why there were two extra lines (I didn’t really learn about the Protestant/Catholic thing until I was 18). And it was just infrequent enough that I could never remember what they were for next time either.

      I’m also a little surprised we were asked to recite the prayer at all. Some of the stuff that seemed natural as a kid looks totally out of place now.

      • The Other Side

        Interesting. But you apparently made it through school without being shot by some kid who was told God doesn’t have a place in schools.

        • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com/ Jaynn

          Nice try, but as I’m natively Canadian that can also be a point in favour of stricter gun laws.

          (And as nice as all the other Christian kids were to me, there are days I feel lucky to have gotten through school at all.)

        • allein

          I was never forced to pray in school (in New Jersey) and I managed to make it out in one piece.

    • pagansister

      He probably doesn’t know the difference!

    • icecreamassassin

      Version doesn’t matter – as long as words like ‘god’, ‘Jesus’, and ‘faith’ are used, it’s all good. It doesn’t even matter what the other words are, what order they are presented in, or what information or declaration is intended. The prayer could be:

      “Something something something through the glory of god and Jesus. My faith is strong and blah to the non-faithful. God and Jesus. Lord and Savior. More other words and things that sound like Ye Olde English. Praise Jesus.”

      and he’d probably just be fine with it.

      In the mind of someone like this, I suspect that it really doesn’t *matter* what is believed, taught, and thought, just as long as you say “God is wonderful” loud enough for everyone else to hear you.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • http://twitter.com/Sullivan_Smith Mr. Kevin Sullivan

    As someone who has lived in Indiana, this does not surprise me.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Hemant, you might want to correct, “He may be stupid, but he’s not stupid.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      No, I meant it the way I wrote it :)

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Ah, I see! Nicely done.

  • pagansister

    And what country is he from again? What a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do! Hello? This is the USA, and there is an important paper written by the founders that had a lot to say about that kind of requirement!

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    A thought: If Kruse is “pushing these bills for no other reason than to appease his conservative Christian fan base,” it’s conceivable that he wants and expects them to fail. He can gain favor among the Christians by making these proposals while having relative certainty that the Constitution will stifle their success. It would allow him to then transfer blame to the evil secular government (or Satan), making him a sympathetic victim of religious persecution.

    Then again, maybe he is exactly what he appears to be. LOL

    • Hypnerotomachia

      I’ve gotta say, this is what I thought too. He’s taking no risks whatsoever–beyond alienating those few groups who will object to these time- and money-wasting pandering antics. He probably thinks he can afford to lose us as long as he hangs onto the Fox News crowd.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Kinda like Bachman pushing for a total recall of Obamacare. AGAIN.

  • Peaslepuff

    Well, I am overjoyed to see that some members of our government are focusing on the things that really matter. Kruse truly is a breath of fresh air – instead of wasting his time on petty matters such as education (the only education should come from the Christian God), health care (if you’re sick, you probably deserve it), and the economy (look at the birds of the air), he’s taking a stand for the really important issue: compulsory prayer.

    And who knows – maybe this will pass and then all school shootings will magically disappear.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I got kinda freaked out when I first hear about The Good News Club. And to be sure, it still scares me, but something I took from one of the interviews with Katherine Stewart is that their theology is so narrow, that they end up freaking out other theists. Really, what’s worse, your kid having to learn and recite, quietly, the prayer you want them to, or the whole class reciting some other guy’s prayer?

    As we get more and more religiously diverse, the acceptable religious recitations fracture. I’m not worried that my kid will go to hell if he prays to the wrong god. But there are parents out there who do think that, and they’re the ones who will make sure this won’t happen.

  • Godlesspanther

    Is this the same fucking asshole who has been trying to get creationism in schools?

    • Kaera

      Same asshole!

  • Lee Miller

    I’m good with the Lord [Krishna]‘s Prayer:

    “Obeisances unto Him who is the destroyer of all obstacles, who the knowers of
    Vedanta describe as the Supreme Brahman, and who others describe as the
    pradhana, or totality of mundane elements. Some describe Him as the
    supreme male person, or purusha, while others describe Him as the
    Supreme Lord and the cause of the creation of the universe.”

    In other words, “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah, more imaginary nonsense things, blah blah blah blah, spiritual-sounding words, blah blah blah, Amen.”

  • Lee Miller

    And why does his face have “creepy” written all over it?

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    It’s also a violation of the Constitution of the State of Indiana:

    Article 1. Bill of Rights

    Section 4. Freedom of religion

    Section 4. No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.

    (History: As Amended November 6, 1984).

    Also, please note this:

    Article 15. Miscellaneous
    Section 4. Oath
    Section 4. Every person elected or appointed to any office under this Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath or affirmation, to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States, and also an oath of office.

    So this guy was sworn in, will repeat that oath next Tuesday, promise to uphold the Constitutions of his State and Country, and then turn around and subvert it.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    If students want to opt in to reciting a given prayer in a given manner they can always do so provided that in doing so they do not disrupt other activities. Why anyone would want to make the recitation of a specific prayer in a specific manner, especially in a manner not according to what the instruction manual of that prayer suggests, something one can opt out of is beyond me.

  • rlrose328

    Yup, his constituents are happy he’s pushing Christianity and then they can feel persecuted when it is shot down, constitutional or not. Pretty sneaky, that man. Thankfully, there are still some sanity, even just a little tiny bit, left in Congress to put the brakes on this kind of nonsense.

  • Wayne

    I believe this guy’s brains left with his hair.

  • kaydenpat

    Sometimes I believe people like Kruse are just trying to provoke people. They’ve got to know that what they’re doing doesn’t pass muster with the constitution.

  • ortcutt

    The unconstitutionality of this was settled back in 1962 with Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962). In fact, by 1962, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer had fallen out of favor for the simple reason that Catholics and Protestants don’t agree on what the Lord’s Prayer is. Most Protestants include the doxology (“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen”), while Catholics do not. You can’t encourage a prayer without taking sides.

  • Renshia

    Just got to think, what the hell is wrong with this guys head. Then I remember, oh ya, it’s religion.

  • Chris

    This story got some brief air time on the NBC affiliate 11pm news tonight. We do have a CFI here too that helps raise awareness and fight bills like this.

  • Thomas Farrell

    I think we atheists should stand back and let him do it. Let the jews and pagans sue him for a change.

  • RobertoTheChi

    This asshole might as well have mandatory lobotomies for all students instead of slowing dumbing them down the way he wants to now. It would be a lot quicker.

  • http://twitter.com/WoodwindsRock Emma

    This is so blatantly unconstitutional that I have to agree with those who say that Kruse should be held accountable for proposing it. Of course, it’s pure politics. I’m sick of politics. BS like this should be shot down immediately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GreginND Greg Cook

    Don’t these folks take an oath to uphold the constitution? I think they should be immediately thrown out of office when they willfully act unconstitutionally.

  • Max Exter

    Sent this to my local state senator who thinks it’s a good idea to amend it to include other religions (http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=90300):

    I am concerned about an article in the IDS that infers that you would support the recitation of rotating prayers from different religions in public schools.

    Specifically, I do not think that any prayer from any religion should be recited in our schools. First of all, it’s potentially coercive for those students who do not want to take part. Second, are we going to be rotating every single religion? Where do we draw the line? Will there be a list of “acceptable” religions? Must a school recite a Scientology prayer one day, Catholic the next, Satanist the day after? Would a secular statement fit in? There are thousands of religions in the world. Perhaps we go by demographic? But if that’s the case, then this bill would simply be a back door way of reciting Christian prayer officially, with the occasional token other thrown in.

    Passage of this sort of legislation will cause nothing but problems. Further, it will be immediately challenged in court (where it will lose), which will cost school districts money that they clearly do not have.

    Please do the right thing, and oppose Senate Bill 23.

  • Ash

    The chairman of the Senate education committee…s***! Never knew how scary politicians in my native state could be…


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