Louisiana State Representative: Students Should Learn Freedom of Religion by Reciting the Lord’s Prayer Every Morning

I thought it was bad when two North Carolina Republican state legislators tried to pass a resolution calling for a state religion. But that was nothing compared to what Katrina R. Jackson, a Democrat from Louisiana, is trying to do.

Jackson has introduced House Bill 660, a bill that would “require the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a policy and develop procedures relative to school prayer and the pledge of allegiance.”

“Establishing a policy” seems harmless… but Jackson wants more than that. She wants to see the wall between church and state torn down, stomped upon, and replaced with a giant cross.

Her bill (PDF) demands that public schools develop policies so that students recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. It would be “voluntary” in the sense that you wouldn’t be punished by the administration for not joining in… but tell that to the 14-year-old students who sit during the Pledge, refuse to say the Prayer, and then have to try and deal with the inevitable harassment from all the “Good Christian” students.

Furthermore, Jackson’s justification of this policy is you’ve-got-to-be-shitting-me appalling:

Students shall be reminded that the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom.

Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.

Let’s stop there for a second because this is already un-fucking-believable.

Jackson wants all students to say the Lord’s Prayer… but she’s not trying to influence your personal beliefs in any way! Never! She just wants Jews and Muslims and atheists to recite the following

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.

… and that should in no way brainwash anyone into thinking God exists and Christianity is the One True Religion.

If that weren’t enough, Jackson also offered another justification:

The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America’s great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

She seriously wrote that students should learn about the freedom of religion by being pressured into reciting a prayer that only applies to Christians.

HB 660 is called the “Parental Choice Historical Prayer and Pledge Act.” I don’t get it since choice is hardly up for debate here. It’s coercion, plain and simple. She might as well have called this the “Suck it, Jews… Act of 2013.”

But we shouldn’t pin all the blame on Jackson. She’s just a piece of the larger battle to get prayer back into public schools.

In January, Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse tried the same thing — and failed. At the time, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel said this:

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

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

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

Another bill pushing for the same establishment of Christianity in the public schools was offered in Kentucky in 2000.

One final thing that’s worth mentioning: The Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew 6:9-13.

If Jackson read her Bible, she might have picked up on Matthew 6:5, only a few verses earlier:

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…

Lamar White, Jr. does a great job explaining the bill and its ramifications on his website, and he also points out the problem with the whole notion of “pilgrim fathers”:

while the pilgrims from the Mayflower may be an important part of early colonial American history, the United States of America wasn’t founded by “pilgrim fathers.” Apparently, Representative Jackson not only doesn’t understand the Constitution, she also never properly learned American history. But, to her, I suppose, that’s no problem; she can just ensure the state rewrites history: “The state board shall develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers.”

This bill needs to go to the same place the Indiana one did: Out of the state legislature and back into the churches where it originated.

(Thanks to Randall 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.

  • asonge

    This woman claims to be a lawyer. My state must be handing out those things like candy or something if she thinks this passes constitutional muster.

    • Rain

      What ever happened to the old “officer of the court” thingy? You know, the one in the movies where attorneys are “officers of the court” and they have to obey the current law, come hell or high water, no matter what. Only in movie fantasy la-la land, apparently.

    • Stev84

      Remember that “Liberty” “University” has a law school

    • Sandra Duffy

      I’ve often wondered about Americans who are ‘lawyers’ and clearly dumb as posts. Taitz, Cuccinelli and this woman all seem to be examples of people who would be incapable of getting a law degree in most countries. Are there no national standards in the US for accreditation?

      • LifeinTraffic

        There are standards for accreditation,they are just minimal. Liberty University has an accredited law school, which pretty much says it all.

  • baal

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
    poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” – Anatole France.

    When everyone says the lords prayer, that’s equal for everyone. You’re all saying the same thing. Each may freely proclaim the same words and know that they are equally free.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      We’re talking about freedom. Not equality. Did you read the blog post?

    • Tom

      Unsure if sarcasm or missing the entire point of that brilliantly barbed quote. Damn poe’s law!

  • A3Kr0n

    Dang, this is like playing whack-a-mole. This could make a fun flash game if I only knew how.

  • C Peterson

    Always the same handful of states. Over, and over, and over…

    I wish that schools would stop teaching that our country was founded by people seeking religious freedom. That’s completely false. They were seeking the freedom to practice their own religion. They came here to get away from societies that denied them that freedom, and in many cases, promptly set up their own societies that denied others the same thing.

    And some are still trying to deny those freedoms to others.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      It was also founded by people who ran, screaming, from the tolerant Netherlands because their kids were starting to assimilate into the much less puritanical (see wut I did there?) religious traditions extant in the area.

    • Randay

      Jackson wrote, “the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom.” I still don’t understand why the African-American community has so strongly adopted the religion of their ancestors’ slave owners and oppressors. The Africans didn’t come to America “in search for freedom”. Furthermore, they had their own different religions which were apparently suppressed. If they want that old time religion, they should look up what those religions were before Xianity came to Africa.

      • C Peterson

        I think most African religions were animistic, and centered on the environment, on nature, on hunting and agriculture. These are the sort of religions of people whose life centers on… well, life. Christianity is a religion of death; it devalues life in favor of the afterlife. Everything about it is focused on your existence after you die. As such, it is attractive to the oppressed, to the depressed, to the damaged. It is the religion of the losers in the lottery of life. All that many slaves in America had was hope for something after they died. Christianity was made for such people. Their descendents simply continue the trend, adopting their religion because it was the religion of their parents… the primary reason that anybody adopts a religion.

      • Gus Snarp

        That’s doing the same kind of lumping all the early American colonists into one group that Jackson did. There were many groups, and while a few descendants of Pilgrims may have owned slaves, in general the slave trade was mainly carried out by the Cavaliers, that is colonists who were originally loyal to the king and were Anglicans. It’s really a huge divide in America that’s still significant. The south was founded by royalist Anglicans, their indentured servants, and criminals and debtors. The north was founded by puritans, quakers, other religious dissidents, and anti-royalists. The revolution began with the descendants of those religious dissidents as well, the south had to be seriously cajoled into going along. Similarly, most progressive politics began in the north with the descendants of those religious dissidents: abolitionism, women’s suffrage, universal suffrage…of course, they also gave us witch hunts, comingling of religious rules and government law, harsh punishment for basically religious offenses, and prohibition.

        • Randay

          You have no idea what I was talking about. Your comment is totally off topic. I am not so stupid that I don’t know the difference between the South and the North from the time of the English invasion. Next time, have something pertinent to say.

          • Gus Snarp

            Yes, on second reading I see that I misinterpreted your post because of the quote you opened with. I certainly didn’t intend to treat you as if you were stupid, after all, many people are far more ignorant of American history than that. I apologize for my impertinence.

            • Randay

              I understand, that has happened to me before and I have had the occasions to apologize for this, that, and the other thing. I sorry that my language was a bit rough. I must have been in a bad mood. I am usually more circumspect.

              I know that people from different parts of England colonized different parts of America with even different ways of speaking, which explains some cultural differences. On another aspect, you maybe have already read Ray Raphael’s “A People’s History of the American Revolution” and Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”. Another interesting one is Herbert Klein’s “The Atlantic Slave Trade”.

              • Gus Snarp

                I wasn’t going to comment on this again, but I had to mention this. I actually made a very thought out and conscious decision about how to respond to this: to ignore it, to be really snarky, to be defensive, or to be very nice and polite. And part of that process was thinking that I’ve had bad days on the internet and been very hair trigger.

                So I’m glad I made the right choice. Thanks for being gracious in return. Faith in humanity: restored.

  • randomfactor

    That’s not even the version of the prayer that I learned. But then again, I went to Catholic school, and this idiot has no regard for Catholics either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Qu-Quine/1176671728 Qu Quine

    Lord’s Prayer? Would that be Lord Krishna?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

      No, you heathen. It would be the Flying Spaghetti Monster who boiled for our sins and is our lord and savior.

      • CelticWhisper

        To be fair, the boiling did seem to soften him up a bit. He’s a much more tender monster now. Though he can tend to be a bit slippery sometimes.

        (I can go all day.)

        • Noelle

          He is a saucy Lord.

  • Ran

    If they want students to learn freedom of religion, then they should have them recite the 1st Commandment. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” That teaches them that they are free to not have other gods. They can have their own gods, but they can’t be forced to have other gods before them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Lets change the name from the Lord’s Prayer to the Lord’s Magic Incantation and see how fast people would pull support for such a waste of tax payers time

  • sfd4304

    So no matter how bad we have it in NC, we can always remember that at least we’re not Louisiana.

  • Mick

    As an attorney, Jackson would be well aware that her bill hasn’t got a hope, so why did she bother to introduce it?

    On another subject: Are the Christian lobbyists still throwing cash around?

    • Bubba T

      Hope? And hope?

  • Baby_Raptor

    The only thing that surprised me about this was that its a Democrat this time. Don’t see that often…Democrats tend to have the basics of freedom of religion down.

    • Willy Occam

      Yeah, a democrat… in Louisiana. Most Southern democrats (especially in the Deep South) are ideologically farther to the right than the average Republican north of the Mason-Dixon line. Politics suck down here… speaking as a transplanted Californian now living in Texas (of course, California does have Orange County to deal with…).

      • Baby_Raptor

        Born in Texas, lived there for 24 years, now in Arkansas. I feel you.

        • LifeinTraffic

          Most of the “Democrats” in VA are the same, especially south of the DC suburbs. In fact, in the majority of elections, they’re former Repubs who just switched parties so they could run against the incumbent.

    • WallofSleep

      “Don’t see that often…”

      Depends on where you live, really. I live in the part of CA that gave birth to the website known as “Free Republic”. A Dem from my part of the state might look more like a Rep in another part of the state.

      This is why people really need to scrutinize the hell out of their would-be representatives rather than voting a strict party line.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    This bill needs to go to the same place the Indiana one did: Out of the
    state legislature and back into the churches where it originated.

    I was thinking that it needs to go back into a smaller, more intimate place from where it originated.

  • kaydenpat

    Just dumb. And thankfully, unconstitutional.

  • http://twitter.com/KnitMairwen Simone in Fluevogs

    I continually wonder why, when elected officials swear to uphold the Constitution, that proposing time- and money-wasting blatantly unconstitutional laws isn’t grounds for impeachment? If I violated the terms of my hiring contract, I could be fired. It never seems to apply to these morons.

  • Glenn J

    So when a law is proposed that states “All church services shall begin with recitations by the congregation of passages from “The God Delusion” and “The Demon-Haunted World” these people will be just FINE with it huh?

  • D. Medd

    See also Matthew 6:6, on praying to be done in private.

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

    Part of her supposed justification relates to wanting to students informed about American history. It’s a shame that our schooling doesn’t offer such a course.

    And, off the topic, is her face real? It looks like plastic or rubber or something unnaturally smooth.

    • flyb

      Severely airbrushed or photoshopped, probably.

      • Michael

        Is there a source for that image? It may need to be submitted to a bad photoshop site or two…

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I know this is off topic, but why does she look like she belong at Madame Tussaud’s?

    • amycas

      “I know this is off topic…” oh crap, this can’t be good…

      “but why [insert random comment about her looks]” Yes, I knew this was no good.

      • Raising_Rlyeh

        I normally don’t comment on the looks of politicians, but it is a little weird.

      • Stev84

        Take a good look at the photo. It’s not about how she looks, but that that the picture has been airbrushed severely.

  • Timmah

    I wonder how she’d react to suggesting children be taught freedom of religion in the US by having them kneel down on a mat and aim towards Mecca? Ohhhhhh not so keen on THAT particular religious freedom are you?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

      Oh, I was going to go with a rousing recitation of the First Enochian Key, but that one works too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lordbeaker Eric Lilly

      She wants the prayer that the “founding pilgrims” would recite. I myself think they should all watch a live burning at the stake each morning.

  • wondering

    Not a good idea, I was shunned in my RC school for not participating in prayers for the victims of abortion I can’t imagine how much I would have suffered for not participating in morning prayers too….

  • R T

    Sounds like Ms. Jackson needs to learn about freedom by getting her butt out into the fields picking cotton for her masters.

    • pRinzler

      You might want to reconsider the wisdom of your comment.

    • WallofSleep

      Da fook?

  • jd quinitchette

    For an atheist, you’ve got a fine command of God’s Holy word, dude! Your repudiation of God infringes upon me just as much as my addle-brained refusal to ditch him seems to impinge upon yours. How ’bout dat?

    • TheBlackCat13

      “infringes upon me just as much”

      So in other words, not at all?

    • toucanne

      Atheists know the bible well; that’s why we reject it as anything other than the word of the 2,000+ year-old males who wrote it.

    • Carmelita Spats

      You know what would be really cool? If you left the Lard’s Prayer out of the public schools and began braying (as in donkey) it to your heart’s content at Wal-Mart, on Sunday, at noon, near the produce aisle. Yeah, you’d sound like a damn lunatic but it would be an object lesson for you on how those who do not share your beliefs see you when you try to force THEIR kids to pray to YOUR incarnational-trinitarian-atoning-resurrecting-ascending-soon-to-be-returning-to-Earth-gawd . Jesus (Mark 8:38) said that if you are ashamed of him on Earth (which includes Wal-Mart’s produce aisle), he will be ashamed of YOU in heaven. So go for it Sport! Wal-Mart awaits! Glory!

  • crystal

    Not my child!! No way am I going to allow you to force one religion on my child. I am Atheist and think one should study ALL religions before dedicating them self to one religion. Making my child stand up and recite a christian prayer is completely unconstitutional. There is to be no church in school!!

  • http://twitter.com/TruthseekerPain Alan Paine

    Is the phrase “ass-backwards” or what?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    Ugh. More great news from my state.

    I did a bit of research, and apparently she’s from District 16, which includes Monroe. Personally, I consider anyone from that far north in the state to be pretty much in Arkansas, anyway.

    That’s not gonna work, is it?

  • pitbullgirl1965

    How many times do we have to keep fighting these battles?

  • Gus Snarp

    So here’s a question: Did the pilgrims recite the Lord’s Prayer in the first place? I know Catholics use it, and therefore most mainline protestants, and even evangelicals, but also anglicans. The actual Pilgrims were mostly Puritans, originally, as well as some Quakers and whoever else. Did these folks use the Lord’s Prayer? Did they do it publicly? That’s actually a question, I don’t know.

    Jackson doesn’t seem to realize that the United States was founded by a wide spectrum of colonists, only some of whom were descended from the Pilgrims (who landed in America 150 years before the Revolution).

  • Derrik Pates

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s apropos. In the words of Chris Rock:

    “If you’re a black Christian, you’ve got a really short memory.”


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