Skip to comments.Prayer Warriors Fight Church-State Division
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.
How very generous of them!
One of the things about FreeRepublic that I have appreciated over these past few years, is the ability to learn from so many different sources, reading the legal arguments of the leading Liberal constitutional attorneys, gives me a clear understanding of their tactics, and their methods. Without that, I can't even begin to refute them.
We spend a tremendous amount of time in FR complaining about our lost constitutional rights, but very little time preparing to battle the enemy to regain them, because often times, in reading their propaganda, we throw our arms up in disgust. To prepare, we need to know their game plan, and their arguments before going into battle.
We already know ours.
PS...Have to go get the boys in their bath, playing Mr. Mom tonight, thanks for the discussion.
I don't know enough about God or eternity to even pretend to claim the wisdom to answer your questions. I can only respect the fact that you were interested enough to ask it. It is unlikely, in my opinion that many of us will ever in this temporal existance, even come close to seeing things through the eyes of our God, who judges, blesses, condemns, rewards, punishes, and exists in a realm that we cannot understand.
In my mind at least, the existance of God is obviuous, as I observe my surroundings upon this earth,I have not a doubt that GOD created- only a complete fool would pretend that all we live among and our selves as well, happened all by accident. Sanity tells us that God did create, and he has the wisdom and expertice to complete his creation. THe very fact that we dare argue with our creator, question the events he allows in our lives, is all the testament we need or deerve to his mercy, love, and patience. God is love and the fact that we still live to question it, is the guarantee thereof.
As an atheist, I do not attack God because I do not believe he exists. What I attack are particular concepts of God.
I have a question for all the Christians here: what is prayer supposed to achieve? If everything happens according to God's plan, can God's mind (and therefore his plan) be changed with prayer?
If as an atheist I know what prayer is meant to achieve, maybe you can convince me that it would be a good idea to have in schools. If, however, it can achieve nothing even if God is real, what is the point of having it in schools?
from Transcript of the March 13th, 2001, Debate Between William Harris, PhD, Saint Luke's Hospital, Kansas City, MO, and Irwin Tessman, PhD, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
Prayers may have an effect, according to Dr William Harris, but as to the cause...
I am guessing that you guys already realise that I am sceptical. However, I will look out for other studies done on this with great interest.
As to the chess idea, are you suggesting that God bases at least some of his 'moves' on whether particular people pray or do not pray and (presumably) on what they pray for? Interesting. I take it that you are not a Calvinist. :)
Then the question becomes: how often does he do this and how much prayer is needed to be effective? If it is more time effective for a good Christian to (using a bad example) knit socks for the elderly than pray, shouldn't that be done in schools instead of praying?
As you can see, I am still trying to understand why Christians want to pray in schools. Is it purely a political thing? In such case, surely it is not something that good Christians should support.
As I said earlier, the dance thing is a good idea but maybe it need not have a Christian spin on it to work. Imagine how many more people might be interested if they weren't put off by the Christian trade mark... Better to get people dancing than have them selling or buying drugs...
While I have great admiration and respect for the truly moral AND rational religionist friends here on FR, I know that there runs through this forum a thread of benighted souls who still subscribe to the ancient God-King concept and believe that an eternal, loving being would condemn anyone(short of Stalin-types) to an eternity of torture. The Bible is full of sadism, fitting for a savage ancient culture. The stories there find their origin in much older myths that were "borrowed" from surrounding civilizations.
Ever find it odd that the great civilizations of the early world were so evil, as described in the Bible, but the culture and figures that belong to the founders of Judaism are so great and moral(even when they kill the husbands of women they want to have sex with..David, anyone?)
It's almost pointless because however much my militancy has faded, I sometimes get angry, because I hear people who have no idea about the real foundations of our civilization, nor of the moral underpinnings. Last time I checked Jesus never really spoke out against slavery. Nor did he present proof of his identity by something as simple as a revolutionary advance in knowledge. He said nothing that Hillel or Buddha or many others didn't already say.
Heck, for all the talk of Satan, he never kills anyone in the Bible. It's "God" that kills millions, if I recall correctly.
"separation between church and state does not exist in the Constitution."The interpretation of the 1st Amendment can differ quite a bit, from "only no state-established church" to "no state involvement in religion." To get insight into what is meant by that amendment, it helps to read the writings of those who wrote or influenced it.
The phrase "wall of separation" comes from Jefferson in a letter to a baptist congregation worried about being persecuted by the then state-established religion. Below, he is agreeing with the letter from the church that government should absolutely not be involved in religion in any way:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties."
"It was created by case law by the United States Supreme Court in 1964."All the Supreme Court did in 1964 was to not allow captive or forced prayer in a public institution. It said absolutely nothing about voluntary, student-led prayer. Any teacher or administrator stopping students from praying themselves (while not being any more disruptive than other allowable actions) is violating those students' rights and should be disciplined. This is NOT acceptable to anyone valuing our religious freedom. On the other hand, any person forcing students to be in a prayer in school ("Okay class, now we're going to pray...") is also violating those students' rights.
"One could argue the Supreme Court violated the Constitution."No, one couldn't if they knew anything about the Court.
Jefferson wrote: . . . legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
Your conclusion: All the Supreme Court did in 1964 was to not allow captive or forced prayer in a public institution. It said absolutely nothing about voluntary, student-led prayer.
Had this been all the 1964 Supreme Court did, and intended to do, their decision (and subsequent decisions based on the 1964 ruling) would not have paved the way for the systematic stripping of God from everything academic (i.e., Pledge of Allegiance because it says "One Nation Under God", or public prayer at graduation services (regardless of whether led by pastor/rabbi/priest) and political (removal of the Ten Commandmants all over the country in front of city halls; bans on nativity scenes, Christmas trees, or Menorrahs), for example.
One also needs to look back to the Founding Fathers and their culture. Had they wanted there to be a complete removal of God from society (i.e., government) so as to maintain this "separation of church and state," they would have ensured they did so themselves. But, they did not. Their intention was not removal of God, rather, to ensure that the government of the United States did not become like the government of England: one church, or "controlling legal authority" spiritually, to which all people are measured and judged.
I agree with your statement, however, government should absolutely not be involved in religion . But not being involved in religion does not mean government cannot recognize a supreme being to which it is accountable and by which it is blessed. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and many other of our early presidents and leaders had much to say in their recognition of God and His influence and NEED in our guiding our government, leaders, and people.
Correction: David was not looked upon by God as so great and moral at all times. He committed adultery with Bathsheeba, then had her husband killed by putting him on the front lines in battle. For this, God had his son, borne by Bathsheeba, die. David repented and God forgave him. 'Tis why that, and other misdeeds of leaders, were left in the Old Testament for everyone to read (nothing to hide). David was a man, learning from mistakes, doing things wrong, as we all do. Despite David's flaws, God looked at David's heart and saw that David truly wanted to do right and good and that David truly did love God. How thankful I am that God doesn't condemn me to hell because I cannot live up to the perfection which is only found in Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately, on the other side, others have used their secular public power to advance a religious agenda on the populace, and this too must be stopped. Religion and politics do not mix without disastrous end results (see the Taliban). And it's not always easy to tell sincerety and reason, even for the person doing it.
For example: An Protestant school administrator wants to post the 10 Commandments only because he honestly thinks it's a good code to live by and kids would do well to see it every day. Sounds good to me, not an endorsement of his religion. But both you and I know he'll get very angry when the workers accidentally post the Catholic or Jewish 10 Commandments instead of his. Hmmm, is this administrator really religion-neutral? He meant to be in the beginning.
One also needs to look back to the Founding Fathers and their culture ... But not being involved in religion does not mean government cannot recognize a supreme being to which it is accountable and by which it is blessed.
On your analysis, "One nation under God" and "In God we trust" would most definitely stay a part of our government. However, the Bible and 10 Commandments would be eliminated from our government. Only mention of a guiding higher power, call it "God" if you will, would remain.
This is because most of the Founding Fathers were Deists, a movement popular among the educated of the time. Deists believed in the existence of God on purely rational grounds without any reliance on revealed religion or religious authority. In other words, they rejected the Bible, Qur'an, Torah, etc., but they weren't atheists. This is very well documented, especially in the writings of Jefferson and Madison.
Some were, not most. I am acquatined with an understanding of Deism. Most of the Founding Fathers were Christians, as were those who put their pens to the Declaration of Independence.
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