The Absent School Board Prayer I Never Noticed

The Absent School Board Prayer I Never Noticed April 29, 2019

I recently came upon this, on the Friendly Atheist:

The Weatherford Independent School District in Texas begins all of its Board of Trustees meetings with a Christian prayer. The members of the Board deliver them, with several mentions of “Jesus Christ,” before closing them with “Amen.” If you think that’s illegal… well, yes, you’re right. Especially since this is a school board as opposed to a city council.

The Weatherford Independent School District was opening its meetings with a Christian prayer. The Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the school board a letter telling them they can’t do that. The school board responded by doubling down.

This is pretty run of the mill, and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this case except that I had very recently attended a school board meeting myself. When I read about the school board’s practice, I was momentarily baffled. Where would you even put prayer, in a school board meeting, I wondered momentarily. At the meeting I attended the chair called the meeting to order, stated what business was on the table, and went from there.

I remember hearing about controversies like this, when I was a child. The way I heard it, secularists wanted to end the longstanding and completely natural practice of starting local government meetings with a prayer. Beginning meetings of this sort with prayer was treated as something intuitive, something obvious.

But it isn’t. It’s really not.

See, what surprised me, on reading about Weatherford Independent School District’s practice, was that I hadn’t even noticed the absence of prayer at the beginning of the school board meeting I attended. Until that moment, it hadn’t registered to me that there wasn’t a prayer. The meeting just happened. It felt completely ordinary.

As a teen ensconced in the Christian Right, I had thought leaving prayer out of local government meetings of this sort was akin to making a statement—in other words, I had thought that it was something that would be noticed.

And yet, I didn’t even notice that there wasn’t prayer at the school board meeting I attended. Nor was there an alternative invocation—there was no need. The chair just called the meeting to order.

This isn’t rocket science.

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