Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 9, 2013

Prayer bill goes against First Amendment


— Every once in a while a politician makes a headline splash in the media because they propose an idea that has been rejected time and time again. Sen. Dennis Kruse has been making that kind of splash these past few days.

Kruse, of Auburn, has introduced a bill in the Indiana Senate that would allow school boards to require students to recite the “Lord’s Prayer,” each day at the start of school. The proposed law states, “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.” The law allows students or their parents to opt out and not attend such an event.

Kruse has tried to interject the teaching of religion in public schools before. Last year he wanted teachers to be required to teach the “intelligent design” theory that a superior being designed the universe and everything in it. The theory is the first portion of the book of Genesis wrapped in a new package.

Another of Kruse’s bills this year will allow students in science classes to challenge teachers on the accuracy of what they teach and then the teacher will have to defend that accuracy. Supposedly this is to allow students to debate their teachers over issues related to the theory of evolution.

We think Kruse’s effort to introduce children to religion and their own spiritualism is admirable, but he should be working with the churches in his district to accomplish his goal.

Our state and our nation have adopted laws to protect children from being subjected to being a captive audience for proselytization. The reason Hoosiers and Americans have collectively adopted these laws is because there are so many competing Christian sects and other religions that the Founding Fathers knew if government got involved in promoting religion, chaos would follow. These men also knew the history of deadly religious conflicts in Europe that were spurred by governments promoting one form of Christianity over another and they wanted their young nation to avoid such internecine conflicts. Therefore, they adopted the First Amendment and its guarantee that government would not favor one religion or sect over another.

But during the past few decades we have seen repeated attacks on that decision. One argument is that some Americans believe that prayer has been taken out of schools. But we have to point out that any student is free to pray at any time during their school day. So, individual religious freedom is alive and well in public schools. But organizing religious services is overstepping the line the people of Indiana and the United States have drawn.