Sunday, July 29, 2007

Separation of Mosque and State

July 29, 2007

I recall growing up in South Florida and attending school, starting in 1954, that we opened every morning with a recital of the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, including the “one nation under God” portion added just that year. It was an every day occurrence and it didn’t seem to bother anyone.

South Florida had a heavy Jewish population at the time and even a very few Muslims. Atheists existed, but didn’t seem to interfere or object to the every morning ritual. I know they existed because my own mother, the daughter of a Methodist minister, did not believe in God and wanted nothing to do with religion. What religious training my sisters and I received was through my paternal Grandmother, who took the three of us to her Assembly of God Church every Sunday for Sunday School.

Even my own atheist mother didn’t object to the schools opening the morning with a prayer or the inclusion of “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, one thing she was adamant about honoring, the American Flag. Children not of the Christian belief were permitted to remain seated or to leave the class if their parent objected to the Lord’s Prayer and often, teachers were Jewish who led the class in the prayer, even though they too were permitted to leave the classroom if they felt it was against their belief. None ever did.

Not until the infamous June 17,1963 Supreme Court Decision did anyone seem to really mind prayer in school. Since then prayer and Christian actions within public schools have been under fire from all sides as groups like the American Atheists and the ACLU seem to seek any and all cases they can dig up to take schools and officials to court over any hint of religion within the grounds of public school.

Down to today we find much controversy still abounding over the 1963 decision and anti-Church groups maintaining websites dedicated to “informing” the public of their rights to be “free from religion.” One such site maintained by the American Atheists, the group started by Madeline Murray O’Hare, the now deceased ‘mom’ who initiated the infamous case resulting in the 1963 decision, lists FAQ’s ABOUT PRAYER IN SCHOOLS. From this page we find,

“American Atheists opposes school prayer for a number of reasons. To begin, it is unconstitutional and a clear violation of our First Amendment. Remember, that amendment contains the "Establishment Clause" which prohibits the government from” establishing" religion. Simply put, secular institutions like the public schools should NOT be a forum for religious ritual or indoctrination.”

We also read,
“School prayer is obviously a form of religious indoctrination; it teaches children that there are invisible, supernatural entities which can be implored and appeased through mumbling prayers or reading from holy books.”

Questioned “how about having different prayers used throughout the school year? they reply,
“That idea ignores the fact that any and all prayer in public schools is unconstitutional, whether one form of religious ritual is used, or a virtual belief-smorgasbord is presented. And do you really think that different religious sects will tolerate the use of each other's prayers? Look at how pluralistic American culture has become; there are hundreds, even thousands of diverse religious beliefs. Many would clamor for "equal time" in this prayer lottery.”

Another article written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation titled The Case Against School Prayer makes statements as
“Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive,” and “The schools are supported by all taxpayers, and therefore should be free of religious observances and coercion.”

A June 2000 CNN article boasts,
“The [Supreme] court ruled 6-3 in a Texas case that public schools cannot allow student-led prayer before high school football games, a decision that reinforces the wall between church and state erected by the First Amendment,” and “The central question was whether allowing prayer violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which states that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,"”
conveniently forgetting the second portion of the amendment, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Needless to say there is now much opposition to any inclusion of religion in public places, especially school. Or, one would think.

That is why I was somewhat taken aback when I recently read A San Diego school adjusts its schedule to accommodate Muslim worship. At recess time, “some students rush out for a quick game of hopscotch, while others gathered in a room for Muslim worship.”

Akram Shami, a volunteer at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles said, “At some public schools, students leave class momentarily or wait to pray until they get home. [Our] faith allows prayers to be combined at a later time if necessary.” Was there a ‘pressing need’ to grant only one religion time within the school day to practice their religion, while denying others the right to practice theirs at any time during the school day? What I read by Mr. Shami tells me no!

According to this CNN article, other school districts across the nation have grappled with this decision in allowing Muslim prayers and accommodating those students who are Muslim. Lisa Soronen, an attorney with the National School Boards Association says, “[M]ost Americans don't think about the fact that schools naturally accommodate Christians. There's no school on Sunday, and we get days off for most of the major Christian holidays.” There’s no school on Saturdays either, but apparently the implications of that escapes Ms. Soronen.

While most all of us do indeed have Christmas off (the only school day I recall being off for a Christian Holiday as Easter always falls on a Sunday), the Dearborn, Michigan School district, “schedules two days off during the Islamic holiday of Ramadan.”

Even if a school does not close for Islamic Holy Days, I have never heard of any school taking actions against students or their parents for keeping their children home on those specific days, much as did Jewish teachers and students at the South Florida schools I attended as a child.

As of this weekend, the San Diego School District has announced that they will Stop Scheduling Class Time For Muslim Prayer by scheduling “two lunch periods,” one during the time when Muslim students would normally say their prayers. Courts have ruled in the past that students may pray during their lunch periods. But, is not the school still making accommodations for one religious group by scheduling another lunch period to coincide with the traditional Islamic time of prayer?

More shocking to me is the words, “The district maintained that it is legally required to approve students' request for religious accommodation.” Tell that to the 6 Supreme Court Justices that ruled against students reciting a prayer prior to a football game in the Texas case mentioned above.

Searching for more information on this, especially from the ACLU, I ran across the ACLU site The Establishment Clause and the Schools: A Legal Bulletin where it states,
“It is one of the fundamental principles of the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the Constitution forbids not only state practices that "aid one religion . . . or prefer one religion over another," but also those practices that "aid all religions" and thus endorse or prefer religion over nonreligion.”

Of this obvious violation of Separation of Mosque and State, their silence is deafening!


UPDATE: Schools and Universities are installing foot baths to accomodate Muslims students who religious beliefs dictate they wash their feet prior to saying their prayers 5 times a day. Not remaining silent, the ACLU of Michigan says, "Indeed, if the university refused to allow Muslim students to wash their feet in the sink without there being a viable alternative, we would have concerns about whether the university was unconstitutionally interfering with students' right to practice their religion."


Unknown said...

Just who is maintaining these foot baths. How often changing the water. pH and I hope Litmus tests by Rudy G? A clean warm towel each time used.

Jesus loves me this I know cause the Bible [KORAN] tells me so.

LewWaters said...

What I see as troubling is that when most any mention or reverence towards a Christians beliefs or articles is prohibited, a Muslims aren't. If religion is truly to be kept out of Public Schools, shouldn't it be all religions?

From what I read, the foot baths will be installed and maintained by the University from a student fund.

When I was a kid and my feet were dirty, we used a water hose outside before my Mom would let us back in the hose.

Canuckguy said...

I have seen other articles touching on the same topic and it annoys me to no end. Just to clarify, I am totally annoyed over the sucking up we have to do for this backward dark ages religion, a religion that had not evolved as did the Christians who, we must remember, use to burn witches and heretics a few hundred years ago. I don't see Islam, a so-called 'religion of peace', heading in that direction.

LewWaters said...

Canuck, this may amaze you, but I have no qualms with everyday mainstream Islam. It is the radical Jihadists I abhor, mucha s I do White Separatists and Klan memebrs proclaiming to be Christian.

All religions have a dark history, but much of Islam didn't advance with the rest. There are small Christian groups nearly as backwards, but they aren't very big.

Still, my point here is that if we are to practice and enforce Separation of Church and State, basically keeping religion out of the public sector, especially schools, shouldn't that include all religions?

I see no need to suck up to Muslims any more than we should to Baptists, Presbyterians or any other denomination.

To me, the ACLU's stance on this is totally hypocritical.