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.


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