Prayer In School
And States' Rights
Wayland Dong

 

This was not true only since the Murray vs. Curlett case, but has been the case since 1789, when the United States of America was founded. It has always been illegal for those on-duty government workers to tell citizens when and how to pray.

 

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Wayland Dong"
Subject: Re: Church/state separation details
Date: October 26, 2001 12:42 AM

You're right on the technicality, but I don't think it was ever legal for the government to tell us to pray (or even to recommend that we pray). It was never legal for the Federal government, and the only question was regarding the States, most of which barred such activities.

It has been illegal since at least the Fourteenth Amendment. Jefferson said that the authority was not granted to him as President to tell his constituents to pray.

This letter was from Indiana, and we would need to see what that State said about it in their Constitution from its admission in the early nineteenth century to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Finally, the issue here is the public schools: the "Christian Nation" revisionists just love to ignore the fact that public schools are a relatively recent invention. I'm not sure of the exact figures, but it seems to me that Murray vs. Curlett has been in effect for about as long as the public schools had been around at the time that case was decided! Seen from that perspective, their whining about "the good old days" begins to take on an entirely different meaning for us.

Our Fourteenth Amendment was ratified about the time England began popularizing the concept of the public school as a way to eradicate the child labor problem. Thus, I doubt that any public schools existed in America before the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.

Thus, I would suspect that every public school that has existed in America has always been under the thumb of the First Amendment as interpreted by the Fourteenth Amendment.

We did post a blurb about the Fourteenth Amendment from constitutional scholar Gene Garman, "President, States, Courts Bound By First Amendment." It just slipped my mind to remember those details because it has essentially never been legal for them to try to get us to pray -- regardless of which jurisdiction was at work preserving this right for us.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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