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Prayer Warriors Fight Church-State Division
The New York Times ^ | 11.17.01 | John W. Fountain

Posted on 11/18/2001 4:35:27 PM PST by victim soul

ARVEY, Ill., Nov. 17 — Jason Clark, 17, a junior at Thornton Township High School, stood at the chalkboard in Room 202, thumbing through his Bible as about 30 students stood silently, eyes closed and heads bowed.

"Father, we thank you for being the God that you are, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords," Mr. Clark said. "We ask you to forgive us for all of our sins, cleanse our minds, cleanse our hearts, cleanse our spirit. We thank you and we praise you and give you all honor and all glory."

"Amen," the students said. Mr. Clark then began his regular Tuesday after-class sermon. The theme was "Self Check," he told the group, because "basically, it's time to get real in our walk with Christ."

Mr. Clark and most of the teenagers who pray with him in this public school in a suburb south of Chicago call themselves Prayer Warriors for Christ. The metaphor is spiritual, but it fits on a political level, too, for the residents here who see the battlefield as the wall between church and state.

They include Harvey's mayor, Nickolas Graves, and City Council members who recently have called for voluntary prayer in the public schools in this city of 33,000, where community and church leaders have asked Harvey officials to petition the state for the right to pray openly in school.

Mr. Graves and Harvey's aldermen have pressed their case in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the subsequent national embrace of public prayer. The Harvey City Council, in fact, unanimously passed a resolution calling for the restoration of prayer in schools two weeks after the attacks, and Harvey political leaders held a town hall meeting two weeks ago to discuss the topic.

Mr. Clark and two of his Prayer Warrior friends, Devlin Scott, 17, and David Anderson, 16, were among scores of people who testified at that meeting, which city officials called a first step in restoring school prayer.

While school-prayer initiatives have been fiercely challenged in other suburbs, the mayor's call has been welcomed in Harvey, known to some as "Little Chicago" because of the urban-style ills that have swelled in recent years with the migration of poor city residents. Gangs, drugs and violent crime have added to the roster of suffering in a city already plagued by poverty.

While politicians here concede that constitutional hurdles and potentially years of legal battles lie ahead, they say the need for prayer has never been clearer.

"It's on everybody's mind and on their hearts," Mr. Graves said at the town meeting. "It's about our children."

Illinois is among the dozen states that allow voluntary moments of silence in schools. But Harvey officials pushing for prayer contend that the law, which permits a moment of silence in class at a teacher's discretion, does not go far enough.

"What we want is actual prayer," said Alderman Ronald J. Waters. "I happened to have been around on Sept. 11. The next day at some of those schools, there was open prayer all through the schools. Even the president is asking for prayer. But the very institutions that we need to have prayer the most, it has been outlawed. So why not where it is needed the most and where it can have a lasting effect?"

Mr. Anderson, one of the Prayer Warriors, agreed.

"We have a lot of young people in school that are troubled and hurting," he said in an interview after the meeting. "And the first thing they want to turn to is the gangs, they turn to the drugs. But they are not turning to prayer. Why can't we pray in the school and let peers know that you have somebody to turn to?"

The Harvey meeting on Oct. 30 took on the air of a church service, and it was clear that the speakers were preaching to the converted. Among those in attendance were pastors and ministers, as well as business and civic leaders and residents from across the Chicago area.

The meeting fell on the day after the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a Virginia case that challenged that state's law, which mandates a daily moment of silence in public schools.

At Thornton, prayer at least a couple of days a week has become the norm for the Prayer Warriors. There is also a teachers' prayer group that meets on Thursdays before school. The student group, which has started a step dance troupe called Everlasting Faith, meets for an hour after classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Members as well as nonmembers attend the prayer and Bible study sessions that sometimes include singing and preaching. Otherwise, the group functions the same as any other school-based group at Thornton, said William O'Neal, the school's principal.

"We follow the same guidelines as the science club, the math club and the English club," said Mr. O'Neal, who has been principal for nine years. "The only stipulation that I put there is, I don't want them coercing anybody to come."

"They take some criticism for it," he said of the Prayer Warriors. "I always let kids know that it's O.K. to be different."

Inside Room 202 this week, Mr. Clark was praying again after his sermon. He paced back and forth.

"Father God, only you know the things that they are going through," Mr. Clark prayed. "I ask Father that as they confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, I ask that you cleanse them."

The teenagers stood, some crying, calling upon God.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: christianlist
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AAAmen.AAAAAAAAAAmen. AAAAAAAAAAAmen. Amen. Amen.
1 posted on 11/18/2001 4:35:27 PM PST by victim soul
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To: *Christian_list
bimp
2 posted on 11/18/2001 4:38:14 PM PST by Khepera
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To: wwjdn; He Rides A White Horse; RnMomof7; George W. Bush; Weirdad
plink
3 posted on 11/18/2001 4:40:37 PM PST by Khepera
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To: Khepera
Wonderful mews!!! God Bless America!
4 posted on 11/18/2001 4:46:17 PM PST by wwjdn
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To: victim soul
Get out of the government schools! Exodus! The government schools are the problem -- not just their Godlessness.
5 posted on 11/18/2001 4:49:01 PM PST by WriteOn
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: Khepera
Wonderful article, Khepera.
7 posted on 11/18/2001 4:51:06 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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Nothing fails like prayer... Or maybe Allah is the one true God, and the prayers of fantatical, fundamentalist Muslims were answered on September 11... Or maybe, doing something other than standing around mumbling to a being that (if he exists) answers prayers the way he wants to and not the way humans want him to... Maybe actions like churches raising more money for education in maths, science and english for underpivilged communities... Maybe actions like the church putting its time and effort into providing a real future for these children by pressing local business to provide more traineeships and jobs...maybe this could be helepd by a campaign for local people to support hose businesses that were assisting the people... God (assuming he exists) helps those who help themselves - and his plan will go ahead regardless of what you pray for. I like the dance troupe, however - inspire some creativity. I suspect, however, that the Christian nature of the group will keep many kids who might have been helped by it away...
8 posted on 11/18/2001 4:51:16 PM PST by David Gould
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To: victim soul
Bump
9 posted on 11/18/2001 4:52:30 PM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: Khepera
Personally, I'm sick and tired of the ACLU and their ilk and their relentless assaults on my faith. It's high time to counterattack.
10 posted on 11/18/2001 4:54:17 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: JA
What is your point? If I beleive in God I have no right to talk?

Or is it only your viewpoint that counts?

11 posted on 11/18/2001 4:56:47 PM PST by wwjdn
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To: David Gould
Tell you what...I'll say a prayer for you, good buddy.
12 posted on 11/18/2001 4:57:22 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: Khepera
As for a previous discussion:

There are those that say works are un-necessary for salvation, and that is not Biblical. Here is one of the references I found:

James Chapter 1: (vs 16-27)

16 -Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.

17 -Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

18 -He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

19 -My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

20 -for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

21 -Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 -Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

23 -Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror

24 -and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

25 -But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.

26 -If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

27 -Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Thereore, works do matter, according to the Bible.

13 posted on 11/18/2001 5:01:27 PM PST by wwjdn
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To: David Gould
Poor Fellow, you obviously do not know the True and Living God. All those things you described are fine but none of them reach the deepest part of the person which is their spirit. Only God can help the spirit which is in need of his Spirit. It is from the deepest parts of our being that we are truly able to be happy and whole. You want to put the cart before the horse. The Bible says seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added onto you.
14 posted on 11/18/2001 5:04:13 PM PST by Bellflower
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To: David Gould
It is sad to think that you believe prayer is about gaining economic gifts from God. Yes, he will bless you if you have faith in Him and ask Him to bless you. But, if you ask for a 25% return on your IRA, I think that's a non starter.

Nothing fails like an atheist without a clue.

15 posted on 11/18/2001 5:12:43 PM PST by Lowcountry
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To: David Gould
I will pray that you at least seek some answers to your doubts. If you truly seek Him, you will find Him. As with any relationship, you must get to know the other. Please open your mind and heart. And don't look for the bad in this, prayer changes things. I would like to suggest you read two books from Lee Strobel. He was a Yale law school graduate who later bacame an investigator reporter for the Chicago Tribune. When his wife started attending church in chicago, he mocked her as they were avowed atheists. He decided to use his investigative reporting skills to prove to her she was wasting her time in prayer and at church. His years of research are published in two books- The Case for Christ and The Case for Christ. Lee Strobel, despite his years of atheism is today a changed man....and I'll let you read about what happened on his journey. These are life changing books! Blessings to you David.
16 posted on 11/18/2001 5:15:25 PM PST by Faithfull
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To: He Rides A White Horse
I love your freeper name. And your response to David Gould was almost as good as your name. Blessings to you too ...see you in the air!
17 posted on 11/18/2001 5:17:32 PM PST by Faithfull
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To: Faithfull
His years of research are published in two books- The Case for Christ and The Case for Christ.

Two books with the same name?

foreverfree

18 posted on 11/18/2001 5:19:21 PM PST by foreverfree
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To: Faithfull
Thanks, friend.
19 posted on 11/18/2001 5:20:28 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: victim soul
Prayer has the power to move mountains! Pray when happy, pray when sad, pray when needs arise but mostly pray without ceasing! God knows what we need before we ask BUT He DOES want us to ask. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, will you let him in? PRAY!
20 posted on 11/18/2001 5:24:12 PM PST by teletech
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Comment #21 Removed by Moderator

To: victim soul
If Satanists said something like "Sweet Satan, you sucked the life out of God's only Son and you Rule the Earth and we Worship you Forever Oh Dark one. May you give us homosexual sex and drugs and rock and roll ..." Blah blah blah. That would be OK in school too? Just trying to get clear on what sort of principle you want to defend.
22 posted on 11/18/2001 5:27:50 PM PST by ConsistentLibertarian
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To: David Gould
God (assuming he exists) helps those who help themselves

Your ignorance is showing. The Bible says just the opposite. The statement the "God helps those that helps themselves" in NOT in the Bible.

23 posted on 11/18/2001 5:29:02 PM PST by rapture-me
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Comment #24 Removed by Moderator

To: rapture-me
Remind me: The part about the sun orbiting the earth, is that in the Bible?
25 posted on 11/18/2001 5:39:37 PM PST by ConsistentLibertarian
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To: nomasmojarras
Yeah, a couple of kids praying after school together is going to cause the whole country to come crashing down.
26 posted on 11/18/2001 5:39:59 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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Comment #27 Removed by Moderator

To: nomasmojarras
some fundamentalists that i know could not stand the so-called "godlessness" in california schools, and sent their daughter to a southern baptist school in the south.

and there in the bushes outside the school she got pregnant!

28 posted on 11/18/2001 5:44:46 PM PST by ken21
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To: ConsistentLibertarian
Not there. Of course, some could stretch the imagination to put it in. All kinds of things have been added by false interpretation.
29 posted on 11/18/2001 5:45:46 PM PST by rapture-me
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To: victim soul
What ahokey title. These kids aren't attemopting a melding of church and state-they merely ask for a brief period of silence, for cryin' out loud! A welding of church and state would be when the state amndates that all the students must attend mass or something, and we all must pay a tax to the church, and that no other religions are allowed, or at least not officially protected.
30 posted on 11/18/2001 5:46:06 PM PST by Cleburne
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To: ConsistentLibertarian
The first part of Psalms 104 has a pretty fair depection of the sun from an astronomical viewpoint. And the Bible does speak of the "circle of the earth" I believe.
31 posted on 11/18/2001 5:49:39 PM PST by Cleburne
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To: He Rides A White Horse; ohioWfan
Ping.

I'm sick and tired of the ACLU and their ilk and their relentless assaults on my faith.

As am I. And I believe that God had many people on their knees back in November and December for so much more than Bush's election (and the ramifications against the Constitution which would have been involved with that). I have felt more of God's presence in our country over the past 10 months, and even more so the past two. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.

32 posted on 11/18/2001 5:49:59 PM PST by nicmarlo
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: victim soul
"Mr. Graves and Harvey's aldermen have pressed their case in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the subsequent national embrace of public prayer."

The first thing enemies do upon commencing hositilities is to exchange vices. Let's hope our secular nation does not devolve into a theocracy ruled by self-righteous Bible Thumpers who will be every bit as authoritarian as the Taliban given half the chance.

People who imagine they can talk to God are delusional. But people who claim that God talks back to them are either insane and dangerous or crafty con artists and dangerous. People in power who imagine that they have a book of instructions written by God tend to be intolerant of those who don't follow the instructions to the letter.

The separation of Church and State should be maintained absolutely. Otherwise the dominant religious group will monopolize the state institutions, come to think of itself as the owner of those institutions and eventually impose its collective will with the same methods the Taliban used. If kids want to pray publicly in groups they are completely free to go to the Church of their choice on their own time.

34 posted on 11/18/2001 5:57:19 PM PST by Vercingetorix
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To: nicmarlo
And our Constitution does not say there shall be separation between Church and State. What it does say is that there shall be no established religion and no infringement upon the free exercise thereof.
35 posted on 11/18/2001 5:58:04 PM PST by nicmarlo
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To: nomasmojarras
i agree.

i grew up in a very strict fundamentalist church and unfortunately for me our minister's wife was my 3rd grade teacher.

a one-room country school, and she was one of the most abusive people that i've met in my life!

36 posted on 11/18/2001 5:58:14 PM PST by ken21
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To: Vercingetorix
separation between church and state does not exist in the Constitution. It was created by case law by the United States Supreme Court in 1964. One could argue the Supreme Court violated the Constitution.
37 posted on 11/18/2001 6:00:25 PM PST by nicmarlo
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: nicmarlo; DittoJed2; Faith; esther2; kayak; GretchenEE; Miss Marple; whoever; Victoria Delsoul
I have felt more of God's presence in our country over the past 10 months, and even more so the past two. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow.

Amen!! And ping!! God is at work in America!

39 posted on 11/18/2001 6:07:30 PM PST by ohioWfan
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To: ohioWfan
Amen!! . . . God is at work in America!

:)

40 posted on 11/18/2001 6:09:37 PM PST by nicmarlo
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To: ohioWfan; nicmarlo
Perhaps there is hope for this country.
41 posted on 11/18/2001 6:13:35 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: nomasmojarras
Prayer can be done anywhere, as long as it doesn't offend other people.

Prayer is a private thing , and it is purely for show and attention that a person prays in public. Church is essentially a public demonstration of your faith. If 2 little girls want to pray, they can do it at home or at church.

Listen to yourself. Quite dictatorial, aren't you?

42 posted on 11/18/2001 6:16:27 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: He Rides A White Horse
Perhaps there is hope for this country.

The prayers of a righteous man accomplisheth much. And I do believe we have lots of prayers going out. There seems to be lots of prayer warriors in FR, too.

43 posted on 11/18/2001 6:19:36 PM PST by nicmarlo
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To: victim soul
Harvey, IL, is a largely black suburb of Chicago. It has a reputation as an unsafe place. The south suburbs of Chicago tend to have large percentages of black residents. And, also tend to have crime problems.

If the ACLU gets involved here, it runs the risk of being labelled "RACIST".

44 posted on 11/18/2001 6:22:07 PM PST by Tom Pain
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To: nomasmojarras
You don't need union of church and state to pray.

I'll say again also that you are mangling the concept of separation of church and state. There is nothing here that establishes an official state religion.

45 posted on 11/18/2001 6:22:27 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: He Rides A White Horse
That should help... What are you going to pray to happen to/for me? I assume it is something like me finding salvation? Already had it once. Then I started questioning. Then I started getting some answers. Unfortunately, they weren't answers that supported the Christian idea of god. So my beliefs changed. If I can take your prayer as being a hope for the best for me, then I thanks. I hope the best for you too.
46 posted on 11/18/2001 6:23:27 PM PST by David Gould
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Comment #47 Removed by Moderator

To: David Gould
Well, I am not praying for your death.....
48 posted on 11/18/2001 6:28:08 PM PST by He Rides A White Horse
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To: Lowcountry
When did I say that? What exactly are you asking for when you pray to God to defend America from terrorist attack? Are you asking that all people learn to love one another? Or are you praying for the death or life time imprisonment of bin Laden? If the latter, you are praying for evil to befall someone. If the former, then you are praying for something that presumably God already wants - yoru prayer is useless in that regard. Why not take action to inspire love in others? Nothing fails like atheism? Atheism is merely holding no belief in God. It cannot fail in the sense you mean. I am not advocating atheism - I am advocating actions that do good and not actions that achieve nothing...
49 posted on 11/18/2001 6:29:28 PM PST by David Gould
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To: Bellflower
I am happy and whole now I no longer have the worry that those I love may spend an eternity in torment because a so-called loving God sends them there after death.
50 posted on 11/18/2001 6:31:03 PM PST by David Gould
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