The Lord’s Prayer in Indiana Public Schools?

The Lord’s Prayer in Indiana Public Schools? January 12, 2012

As if the news of attempts to get creationism into science classrooms were not bad enough, there is another proposed law that seeks to allow schools to mandate the recitation of the Lord’s prayer.

Here’s the text of Senate Bill 251:

Sec. 4.6. (a) In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen, the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students.

(b) If the governing body or equivalent authority requires the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer under subsection (a), the governing body or equivalent authority shall determine the version of the Lord’s Prayer that will be recited in the school corporation or charter school.

(c) A student is exempt from participation in the prayer if:

(1) the student chooses not to participate; or

(2) the student’s parent chooses to have the student not

This is clearly unconstitutional. But even if it weren’t, why would anyone want to put students from non-Christian traditions in the position of being bullied and made fun of for not participating in such rituals?

But this should be an issue even for Christians. All it would take is for someone to propose allowing prayers from other traditions – even another Christian one, say the Hail Mary – for this sort of thing to suddenly become controversial among Christians. But of course, in our diverse society, one might ask why we couldn’t see something along the lines of the short story “Children, Pull Out Your Chickens” or what is depicted in Hemant Mehta’s cartoon:

We should avoid having anyone dictate to children to pray something specific in schools. Public schools are places where common values and generally accepted knowledge are conveyed to children, not sectarian viewpoints of any sort.

Laura Conaway posted on this at the Maddow Blog, and unfortunately brought that infamous bogus supposed translation of the Lord’s Prayer into the discussion. It is in fact an English prayer with no relationship to anything in the Aramaic version of the prayer. I’ll gladly post on this separately if there is interest.

Let me close by offering one more subtle reason why Christians ought to be opposed to this sort of thing, from Bob Cargill:

There are good Christian reasons to be opposed to this legislation. Time to contact our legislators again

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  • Eric Thurman

    Thanks for this, and the links. Big news day for the Lord’s Prayer it seems. Another story from Delaware:

  • Ian

    The Tebow photo is perhaps the coolest thing I’ve seen all year.

  • Chris Wild

    I’ve never heard of the ‘original Aramaic’ Lord’s Prayer before, what BS. I’d be interested in a separate post on it.

    • jj

      I would suppose you are one of those christians who believe that Yeshua taught out of the King James Bible and spoke in modern english, you need to go back to Pal-Talk and join your room again. They miss you!

      • JJ, I think that perhaps you failed to click through and see what it is that this post is talking about. It has nothing to do with the actual Lord’s Prayer in actual Aramaic, but with someone’s bogus claims about what the Aramaic means.

        • Ian

          “It has nothing to do with the actual Lord’s Prayer in actual Aramaic”

          Do we have the ‘actual Lord’s Prayer in actual Aramaic’ – we have the version in Matt and Luke translated into Syriac, is that what you mean? I’ve not come across any scholarship that suggests the Peshita version is evidencing an earlier Aramaic tradition, or anything independent of the Greek. But then I’ve probably read far less than 1% of the scholarship on the subject…

          • We can translate the Lord’s Prayer into first-century Palestinian Aramaic, or we can talk about existing Syriac translations. But my point was that the English “Original Aramaic Lord’s Prayer” on the web site I linked to bears no relation to any of those.

          • Ian

            Thanks James, I was worried I’d missed something rather important there!

    • @9d55eb9129919a5174f43b9138b6e6b1:disqus , I finally got back to blogging about the “original Aramaic” Lord’s Prayer: 

  • Gary

    On pull out your chickens …”today I will lead you in a Santeria prayer”. Under no circumstances do I support Santeria, but I find it disturbing that some Christians are self-absorbed in the OT, at the expense of the NT. They recoil from Santeria, but do not even blink when the foundations of their worship describes a process of 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, slitting the throats of bulls, lambs, and pulling apart doves, to rid themselves of sin. Especially when they try to rationalize such behavior as a “learning process”, or a “laying the foundation process” for Jesus, as if a God would find this acceptable. I find it much more satisfying accepting the fact that humans pre-33 AD didn’t know what the hell they were doing. Like a child pulling the legs off of flies, just for the heck of it. You can do all the deep theological analysis you want, but justifying OT behavior is not possible.

    • Ian

      “You can do all the deep theological analysis you want, but justifying OT behavior is not possible.”
      Not wanting to be unduly jerky, but if the history of theology has taught us anything it is that *any* behavior can be justified theologically.

      It may not be convincing to people with a differing theology, but then nothing theology says ever is. But justifications for immoral behavior? That’s something of a theological specialty. Can you name an atrocity committed in a country with a predominantly Abramic faith that *hasn’t* been justified theologically?

  • Gary

    You could make Santeria acceptable to fundamental Christians in school class rooms. All you have to do is list it as an OT “history” class. Today, children, we are going to show you the process that our ancestors used in making a wave offering…first you slit the animals throat, then you…

  • Gary

    Ian, you said “*any* behavior can be justified theologically”. Man, a big put down for theology. I might be tempted to pursue an agnostic belief again. Although secretly, I support your leaning, I still want to see some loved ones, post death. Maybe it’s stupid, but the alternative is not what I want. So I am happy in my ignorance. If I am wrong, it doesn’t much matter anyway. Of course, you realize that it puts James degree into the “study of fiction of NT literature and language” category. Bummer.

    • Ian


      “Of course, you realize that it puts James degree into the “study of fiction of NT literature and language” category. Bummer.”

      Not really, and to the extent it does, so what? Is it a noble area of scholarship to be a Homeric scholar? I’d say so. Or a scholar of any venerable mythos or piece of ancient literary history? I submit it is. And if that is noble, then how much more so the most influential piece of mythology in our modern world? James’s work isn’t primarily literary criticism, but of the history of thought. I’d say that is very worthwhile.

      My comment wasn’t suggesting you should not believe. Just challenging the idea that we have any basis on which to decide what is ‘right’ theology and what isn’t: what atrocities we allow to be properly ‘justified’ by theology, and which we judge to be beyond that. Ultimately, I suggest, all justifications of any behavior: atrocious or not, are on equally shaky foundation without some objective criteria in which to base them.

  • Gary

    ” objective criteria”…There is no objective criteria, except the objective criteria that we each hold in our own belief system. And it is therefore not really objective.

    • Ian

      We’re derailing somewhat here… but…

      “There is no objective criteria” That is pomo nonsense. While it is true that stating something to be absolutely objectivity true is impossible, it is not the case that objectivity is illusory.  Objectivity, for this purpose, is anything that would be true independent of people. Given that God is a human construct (or at least if not, nobody seems to want to suggest a way in which to determine the characteristics of God using criteria one could reasonably expect to give the same result regardless of who performed the analysis, and which could reasonably be expected to hold for any hypothetical non-human intelligence), all theology has no more claim to truth than what someone wants to believe, as far as I can see.

      The two theological responses to this seem to be to suggest either that *everything* is contingent on human perception. Which is nonsense. If you think the strength of gravity changes depending on what you believe, or if you think that its okay for a family who believe Lead isn’t poisonous to feed it to their baby, then you’re delusional. Or that a particular kind of theology can establish independent criteria. The suggestions for the latter tend to be biblical (nicely debunked by this blog) or scientific (which, unfortunately doesn’t leave you with much God).

    • Ian

      [duplicate comment removed]

  • jj

    James, I stand corrected yet the statement that I responded to was rather biased against the Aramaic Prayer, so I responded to someone who was drifting away from the original thought. 

    Personally I see nothing wrong with keeping the L_rds prayer out of “Public Schools”, whether in Indiana or any other state, as long as all other religions suffer the same fate for their religious beliefs/statements, especially Secular Humanism and Islam. Otherwise I feel that the christians have the same right to the public display of doctrine that all other belief systems enjoy.


  • jj

    Ian, using your Theology we can assume that nothing is and everything is. What is this contingent upon? Nothing and everything as perceived by someone or something, this is standard scientific double-talk used to prove and disprove the same hypothesis depending on who or what you are speaking to or arguing with, shouldn’t you join the current administration? Yes this is off the original point but I did not lead us here

    Again, written in English, Aramaic or Farsi should the L_rds prayer be allowed in the Indiana Public Schools? The real question is: Should we even have “Public Schools?” assuming we did not have these Public schools there would be no area for controversy, in private institutions we would place our children according to our personal theological tendings. Problem solved.

    • Ian

      I’m sorry jj, but I’ve literally no idea what you’re trying to say. I’ve no idea why you’d want to ‘assume that nothing is and everything is’ or what you mean by contingent in that case. And I had to chuckle out loud when you decided that this was ‘scientific double-talk’. Then the decent into politics at the end makes me think you’re rather unstable. Finally, a hint, at the bottom of a comment it says who the comment is in response to. I was responding to a point Gary made. Its quite right you ‘didn’t lead us here’, and barring anything comprehensible to say on the subject, I suspect you won’t lead us much further.

  • Gary

    Ian, per “If you think the strength of gravity changes depending on what you believe”. Nope. For “”There is no objective criteria”, I meant only in relation to human morals. I was in science. What I measure in a science environment is objective. As far as human morals, Mayans, Aztecs, etc liked to rip a person’s heart out to worship Gods. They probably thought they were moral. But I agree with what you said, “all theology has no more claim to truth than what someone wants to believe, as far as I can see”. When I reply directly to a person, I get an error when I try to post it, for some reason. So I usually don’t reply directly. I tend to have fun in posting responses to Jame’s stuff, so I am not so sure anything I say can be taken seriously. I certainly have no moral crosses to bear…unless, of course, we are talking about Republicans, war, or animal sacrifice. Anything else is just plain fun.

    • Ian

      Yes, exactly what I was trying to say. Unless we can first agree what a set of objective criteria might be for discussing theology, it is all relative. Mayans, Ancient Hebrews, Nazis, and Scientologists all have due theological basis to justify their actions. All I was saying was that, if that is the case, we have to be careful with statements like “theology can’t justify that…” because it can. And it can because we have no objective way of telling what theology is right and what is wrong. I suspect we’re in agreement.

  • Gary

    Ian again, “The suggestions for the latter tend to be biblical (nicely debunked by this blog) or scientific (which, unfortunately doesn’t leave you with much God)”…if you are talking about feeding lead to a baby, or ripping a heart out in Aztec times, being theology, just identifies the people as crazy, by our standards. However, science says nothing about God, ours or the Mayans. If you believe it does, then Stephen Hawking has a religion called M-theory, theory of everything, and multi-universes. However, I believe what Hawking believes regarding the physics. But it still says nothing about God. So Hawking can be an atheist, and I can be a Christian, and we can both believe the same things in physics. Science doesn’t leave you with much God, because science says NOTHING about God. Or at least it shouldn’t. That is not science’s job. Your theology, that of an atheist, is your non-objective criteria, mine of a Christian, is mine. But science is silent on the subject.

    • Ian

      “Science doesn’t leave you with much God, because science says NOTHING about God.”

      I don’t buy that. I think you have to work hard to come up with a concept of God that a) people would want to believe in, in numbers and b) stays clear of anything that has empirical consequences. You end up with a deistic God, one who’s at best not around, at worst never was.

      What most folks say they believe, if you analysed it in enough depth, would have empirical consequences. Science would say something about that God, and so far when we’ve looked, it has said that such a God isn’t there.

      Non-overlapping magisteria is all well and good, but science’s magisteria is anything that can be perceived, detected, interacted with or deduced from observation. A god who cannot be perceived, detected, interacted with, or deduced from observation, is a pretty tiny God, I’d say.

  • Gary

    “Science would say something about that God”…not so. I guess this is the point that we say, we do not agree, and anything more said is wasting both our time, and brain cells. As I said, “Science doesn’t leave you with much God, because science says NOTHING about God.” You said “I don’t buy that.” I buy it. Tell you what, if there is a resurrection, I’ll tell you “Got ya” (I’m an inclusivist). If there isn’t, then neither one of us will ever know.

    • Ian

      🙂 Always fun to talk to you, Gary.

      But the response is pretty simple: can you define a moderately theistic God in a way that we can’t find some empirical implication of that God’s existence? Its all very well to say “Yes I can, and if you don’t believe me, tough”, quite another to do it, yet another to do it and end up with a God that any significant number of believers would recognize 🙂

  • Gary

    Ian said, “define a moderately theistic God in a way that we can’t find some empirical implication of that God’s existence?” Guess not. Although the strong anthropic principle is what I hang my hat on. I am reminded of a “Big Bang Theory” episode (the comic TV program). I like it, just wish they didn’t have so much sex in it. anyway, Sheldon said something like “Yes, if they discover an old man with a flash light sitting at the center of a black hole”. But for me, it still comes down to life and death. Not looking for proof, but hoping for the answers to all the questions in the universe. So in an analogy, life is like going to a movie. 5 minutes before the end, the power goes out, and the theater goes black (death). So we don’t get to see the ending, which explains all the plots and subplots. In our case, the last 5 minutes tells us what the universe is, what the implications of M theory, 11 dimensions, multi-universes, life on other planets, etc. are. So an atheist says I am not going to see the end to the movie, so the end of the movie doesn’t exist. A believer (in any religion) says the movie producer wouldn’t have made a movie without an ending. So someday, I will get to see it. This blog explores the ending, since it includes science fiction, which is a unrestricted dreaming of what the ending could be. And it includes religion, which explains in rather too much detail what it thinks of the ending, but religion is bogged down with too much extra baggage of history and culture, which consists of theology. So I want to see the last 5 minutes of the movie, but I can’t prove it exists. You just want to say I can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist.

    • Ian

      Nice analogy Gary, makes your view clearer. 

      So a question, meant in genuinely curious terms: if the issue for you is one of hope that death isn’t the end: that your faith is that death sees a continuation of your intellect, which will then be enlightened – why talk about ‘God’ at all? Seems to be building that theology which you think is baggage on top of your actual hope: which you seem to be suggesting is a brief period of post-mortem understanding. Especially as the ‘God’ you have to use at that point isn’t the same kind of thing that most people mean when they use that word. Is ‘God’ then just a handy misdirection: you talk about ‘God’ and people think you mean a theistic God, which is fine because at least they know you’re talking about something supernatural. Or do you actually think that a personal being is somehow crucial to your concern?

  • Gary

    “Seems to be building that theology which you think is baggage”, true. But from a practical standpoint, part of the theology is the social aspect of going to church. I don’t particularly want to sit on top of a mountain and meditate by myself. I want to help out people I think are needy, so a church offers that opportunity. The theology of a church offers a framework to hang everything else on. As far as a supernatural personal being….maybe not necessary. I do not know. The story of Jesus in the NT sounds pretty good to me. But I tend to reject much of the OT as inconsistent with the NT. As a minimum it is a good role model. As a maximum, it might lead to how the movie is suppose to end.