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Does Separation of Church and State Breed Intolerance?

Updated on March 9, 2012

The political debate over separation of church and state has affected my life since I was in the second grade. Even at such a young age, I was aware of the turmoil caused by the great debate, and being very young, I just didn't get it. What was the big deal? I could not understand why anyone would think that prayers and bible stories could bring harm to any child, or adult, for that matter. After all, such activities promoted goodness among all people, right? The stories provided examples of why we should be tolerant, why we should be kind and helpful, and why we should treat others in exactly the same manner that we would like to be treated. How was that harmful?

Of course, as I grew older and matured, I began to learn what all the commotion was about. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the case which established the banning of prayer in school actually took place in 1962. I started first grade in 1966. I remember my first grade teacher very well. She was one of the kindest women you'd ever want to meet, very grandmotherly and absolutely well suited to handling a mob of first graders. Every morning, at her instruction, we closed our little eyes and bowed our heads over clasped hands while she recited a short prayer. Following the prayer, we were treated to a quick bible story, after which we would discuss the lesson contained within. We had many occasions during that school year where an incident would occur that would bring a past lesson to mind. We small children would often look at the perpetrators grievously and remind them of the lesson. More times than not, that was all it would take to end the “bad” behavior taking place.

Back then, I don't believe I ever met anyone who didn't believe in God. We didn't debate whether “He” existed. Existence was pretty much taken for granted. We were also much too young to understand that there were differing views regarding different types of religion. Many of my classmates went to the same Lutheran church as I, but there were just as many who attended the Presbyterian church, the United Methodist Church, and the Catholic church. We looked at it in the same manner as those who shopped at different grocery stores. No big deal, just a matter of preference for reasons in which we weren't interested.

I remember arriving for the first day of second grade. We were informed that bible stories were now not permitted, and the morning prayer held in each classroom was likewise eliminated. They made a concession to allowing prayer only in the form of a non-denominational utterance across the PA system, read by the principle. The students were not happy with this development. We didn't understand why prayers and bible stories were now illegal in schools. It was explained as going against our Constitution. Being so young, that didn't make much sense to us either. If our country was founded on democracy where the majority rules, then why were we the losers? We looked around suspiciously at each other and wondered who was the culprit responsible for this decision. When it was determined that no one we knew personally had anything to do with it, we wondered why we were being affected by some stranger's wishes. It did not make sense to us.

The topic sparked a lot of discussion among all the elementary students in my school. We were not happy with the decision. We liked the morning discussions. We started our day with the idea that a benevolent God was watching over us, and taking note of the goodness we were so intent on exhibiting. During that school year, there were still occasions where a past lesson would creep into a discussion of whether a classmate's behavior was acceptable or not, but the occurrence became less and less. The memories were fading. Going to church every Sunday would serve to refresh our memory, but soon our Sunday lessons and activities became just that...Sunday activities. Thus began the disconnecting from religious inspired morals and ethics.

I have to take the maturing process into account as an influence on my observations and assumptions, but mostly what I observed was a fine, almost imperceptible line being drawn between how we behaved on Sunday and how we conducted our lives the rest of the week. I started noticing that children who were friendly to one another and played well together on the church lawn were not interacting so well in the school setting. I was beginning my lessons on hypocrisy and I wasn't liking it one bit.

As the days, months, and years moved on, I was headed toward a conclusion that “religious” people were primarily liars and manipulators. They behaved a certain way in front of others they presumed to believe were “God-fearing”, but had an entirely different set of rules for the rest of the world. I learned they tended to speak out of both sides of their mouths. I came to have a great distaste for anyone who proclaimed themselves to be righteous, and avoided them with a passion. I didn't trust them to be who they presented themselves to be. I certainly wasn't going to trust them to guide me in matters of my belief system.

By the time I had reached 6th grade, I had made up my mind that I simply could not subject myself to their company, even on Sundays. I remember informing my mother of my decision not to attend church or Sunday school any longer. There were arguments and even threats on her part, but eventually she understood that sending me there was only going to cause me to dig my heels in deeper. I believe she also understood that what I was observing taking place in those “hallowed halls” was likely to undermine and eradicate whatever belief in God might still be lurking within my brain.

That I still maintained a belief in a higher power was evident in some of my activities. I had never really given much attention to the different kinds of religion practiced by people. At a young age, I just excepted that God was God and no matter whether one prayed on his knees or touched his head to a carpet, His being wouldn't change. I DID develop a curiosity about such people, though.

My attention was first drawn by one young lady in particular. I noticed her in my homeroom class when she didn't recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of the class. Every morning, she simply stood out of respect for the rest of us, but never once uttered the sacred words. What was going on? And why was she permitted to not swear her allegiance if she was an American citizen? So I asked her about it. She explained that her church, the Jehovah's Witness, did not permit the activity. Say what?

I was curious about a church that could order it's members to be disloyal to their country. So, I invited her to my house to explain her beliefs to me. It was interesting, but I couldn't buy into the dogma. At this point in my young life, I had come into contact with the Jewish faith, the Christian faith in all its many forms, and the Catholic faith. There was a common theme running through all of them.

Every one of them puts honoring their God before all else, and while there are many individually embraced rituals and methods employed in conferring that honor, there isn't a single one that doesn't outline the rules for co-existence among one's fellow human beings. If we remove the other trappings, they all advocate the same ideals of tolerance, acceptance, care and empathy for the downtrodden, kindness, and humility.

As a high school student, I found myself wondering why people needed God as a reason for doing what's right by their fellow man. That led to more questions, such as why so many who professed a total belief in their version of God, could intentionally engage in actions which defied the very principles they claimed to embrace. During the time all these questions were forming, another event in the hotbed of “separation of Church and State” took place. The morning prayer read over the PA system was eliminated because it had been determined that school led prayer was an endorsement of the existence of God. Such endorsement offended the atheists. Now a simple few moments of silence was provided for those inclined to say silent prayers.

It was the mid-70's when this took place. By then there had been a total disconnect between school activities and church activities. Students had pretty much decided the whole debate was a big waste of time and energy. Those who instigated the changes were seen as jerks who wanted to create a commotion just to gain attention. None of us were likely to be swayed one way or another by the mere recitation of a few mumbled holy words over the PA. Very few students utilized the moments of silence as an opportunity for prayer, choosing to pass notes or doodle instead.

My own path of discovery has led me to form and discard many ideas about things of a spiritual nature. 30+ years later, I've realized there are many reasons for why people behave as they do, and just as many diverse answers to the various questions that occurred to me during my lifetime. I've come to realize that people need rules to live by; rules that are outlined and written down; rules that are designed to lend guidance when one finds himself in unknown territories. While not an advocate of formal religion, I've come to understand that some people need the reassurance that someone or something is bigger than they, and that something will help them and provide them with comfort. It is called hope.

What we have done by separating any and all church related activities from the scholastic setting is the total and complete removal of hope. We have created a world of uncertainty, hunger, poverty, intolerance, and chaos, because that is human nature when left to our own devices. We are hard wired for survival at all costs, and when our sense of safety is threatened, we will do whatever we must in the interest of protecting our lives as we know them. We have created a world of “every man for himself” where there is no one to be counted on for looking after our well-being but ourselves. By the same token, there is no one to whom we must be held accountable.

You may take the stand that we've created man-made laws to cover just about every action a person may take, therefore we are accountable to each other through those laws, but that is an illusion. The foundations of such ideals are built on sand. As human beings who are wired for self-preservation, we will continually reformulate and redefine laws to accommodate our innately selfish perspectives. Those who are left out of benefiting from such laws, those who are placed in circumstances of hardships by such laws, and those who believe themselves to be persecuted by such laws will strike out against them. When despair rules and there is no hope but in one's fellow man, the same fellow men who have enacted those laws, the desperate do not care about the repercussions. They have already reached a point where they can see no way out, no better tomorrow, no hope.

As I said, I do not practice within any formal religion. I have my own belief system, arrived at by way of my personal experiences. It serves me well in times of hardship and well-being alike. I don't know if I would have a different perspective had prayer not been removed from my scholastic experience. However, I do believe the removal did more harm than any possible good for American society in general.

Instead of removing the threat of religious intolerance, it has done the exact opposite. The widely spread national attention each new case attracts only serves to underscore the fact that there are differences. Each time another law is passed to remove yet one more instance of religious belief from a public institution, the factions are incited to fight and argue, heaping blame and intolerance upon the other.

By removing prayer from the schools, we have implied to our children that a belief in a higher power is a bad thing, something to be avoided rather than embraced. Instead of blocking a youth's right to believe and practice their beliefs, why not make space and time available? How difficult would it be to designate different spaces within the schools as separate areas for use each morning or afternoon? How much trouble is allowing students to head to the auditorium for a quick prayer among their Christian brethren, or to head to the gymnasium for a short read from the Torah? As for the atheist population, there's no coercion to attend any designated space.

For those who would argue that it would place the atheists in a position of being left out....So? It would be their choice, right? It would be their decision to stand for their personal belief system by not going to any designated area. At one time or another, throughout our lives, we are all a part of a minority when it comes to personal ideals and beliefs. Perhaps it is our insistence on shielding our children from the realities of life that has caused our society to undervalue courage and tolerance. When we eliminate situations which call for tolerance, we eliminate the opportunity to teach tolerance.

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    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Rick: Are you simply stating your personal beliefs about formal religion and God, or are you entering a debate with me about the merits of my views on the topic written here? If just stating your beliefs...type away! If you're commenting with a mind to debate, then you missed the point of the article which is simply that we are removing Constitutionally guaranteed rights by prohibiting students from forming prayer groups among themselves. They are guaranteed the right to practice freedom of religion. I don't see how 6 like-minded students gathered privately in a corner can possibly present a threat to anyone else. That's like saying that people who like the color purple can't form "The Purple Club" because I don't like the color purple and will be offended if they wear it in front of me. I certainly wasn't advocating for religion to be "sold" to students through curriculum or learning activities. I've stated over and over again that we've removed their right to publicly embrace their beliefs. As far as I'm concerned it's total bullsh*t. Maybe I believe in monsters from Mars and worship them as my Gods. So what? As a student I wouldn't be permitted to tell others I beleive in monsters from Mars because then I'd be "pushing my personal religious beliefs" down someone's throat? Absolutely ridiculous!

    • Rickmasters07 profile image

      Rickmasters07 5 years ago from Clearwater, FL

      I was GLAD when they banned that CRAP from school...People have a RIGHT to worship who & what they want....but, as to the WHERE....Keep it in CHURCH or in your own HOME or at gatherings of LIKE MINDED people....Do NOT try and ram YOUR ideas down MY throat!!...I believe children should learn about religion from their HOME ...and then when they reach a certain age (mine was 10 years old) they should be allowed a CHOICE as to what they want to do...I hadda go to "Sunday School, until I was 10 and I hated it....Mom gave me the choice not to go...n I stayed home n SLEPT on Sunday.... (whether they're still "living under your roof" or NOT......It is (in MY view) TOTALLY disrespectful to DEMAND that ANYBODY subscribe to YOUR beliefs simply because YOU believe in something! Aside from being SOME cases (as with ME) it'll get your ASS kicked!......As for religion in SCHOOLS....NOT!!...THAT is doing what I just described.....NONE should have to STAND for it!!.....Now...should we take the word "God" off of courthouses and out of the Pledge of Allegiance?....THAT'S just as STUPID.....and silly to BOOT!!...I just didn't SAY the word, when I did the Pledge, in school....But you can not REQUIRE people to do Bible studies in school...for the reasons above and...because you have to ask....WHO'S "bible"??....Lutheran?....Jewish??...Muslim??; etc....How WOULD that WORK???.....So, I say...leave religion in the CHURCH and HOME and leave it OUT of education except where it comes into play in a HISTORY lesson.....Religious fanatics need to STOP trying to ram their silly, superstitious beliefs down the throats of people who don't (or are too INTELLIGENT to) BELIEVE what they're SELLING!!....Tell yer story WALKIN", I say.......End of tirade...

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You are absolutely correct about the effects of time on oral traditions, as well as the changing of written interpretations of such. However, whether or not they are fact is still something that can't be proved or disproved. We can form theories based on tangible hard evidence, but they are still only theories.

      There has been one instance where proof has been provided that stories don't always change from generation to generation. The Hebrew Torah of today has been compared to one considered to be the most ancient to have survived through the centuries. To be honest, I didn't take note of the believed date of origination when I first came across the article years ago. However, I recall that it was from truly ancient times and it had been found fairly recently in relation to the production of the latest "editions" of the Torah. Even so, again, the issue of what they believe is their right to believe for whatever reason. You and I don't have any justification for trying to control environments that hamper their rights to follow their chosen beliefs so long as it doesn't interfere with our right to pursuit of our own brand of happiness. Once again, this is the heart of tolerance. You don't have to agree with their beliefs. You don't have to think they are intelligent for choosing to believe. You DO have to leave them in peace to follow those beliefs without threat of punishment or discrimination. It is a Constitutionally guaranteed right.

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      geordmc 6 years ago

      If they think the books are factual remember the books were written by men who were told the stories in an oral tradition for at least a thousand years before writing had been introduced. Like the game telephone the stories change slightly from one generation to the next, over time they wind up completely different from the original. Believers don't take this into account when they spout off about their belief.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      "...the books used in these teachings are not entirely true..." Those words can not be made as a statement of fact. For those who believe in the faith being taught, those books are true. It is your opinion that they are not. This is the problem in regards to anything spoken about of which there is no tangible proof. There's no tangible disproof either.

      There are many children who are the recipients of parental guidance that models the behavior of which we are speaking. Unfortunately, these same children are sent out into public places where they can come under the influence of others who may not have such guides showing them the way. It's a fact of life. AGAIN..the point is that taking away people's rights to exercise a particular belief system is a very obvious method of exercising INTOLERANCE. There's absolutely no reason to deny every religious group their right to a designated space for a few moments in which they can commune with others of the same beliefs. There is no reason that anyone should have a problem with that, since everyone can have their own space. The 5, 10, or 15 minutes now provided for students to silently observe their beliefs doesn't allow for fellowship that many faiths acknowledge as an integral factor. Letting students go straight to these areas upon arrival in the morning, wouldn't alter the course of the day. Most students amble around their lockers for 15 - 20 minutes before needing to head to class. Why not let them use it for their beliefs?

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      geordmc 6 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

      I read AND understood that fact.However one must also look,read and understand the books used in these teachings are not entirely true. In order to teach our children tolerance & understanding they need to see people actually living with these qualities. Preferably their parents. Just paying lip service to these ends won't cut it!

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Geordmc: First you need to realize the "In God We Trust" phrase is something historic, coming from a time when the entire world believed in some type of supernatural power that had been provided an identity somewhat reminiscent of a human being. It didn't matter whether Protestant, Catholic, Quaker, etc.., this country was primarily founded by people of some form of Christian faith, though the borders weren't entirely closed to others. The idea of leaving "God" out of government was not about giving up one's faith, but more about not favoring one faith over another. The Constitution is pretty clear on this issue.

      Second, I'm not sure you read or, at least comprehended, the entire article. I very clearly stated that I, personally, do not advocate any kind of formal religion. I believe they are all designed to control and manipulate the masses for the sole purpose of propagating their own agendas. Every one of them makes the claim that they are the one true religion, the one true way...

      As for tolerance...there was never any statement made which implies that formal religions are tolerant or not. My point was simply that by removing people's rights to practice their beliefs, we are then in effect, favoring atheism over other religions. Whether or not one believes in a God or the religious trappings which may accompany that belief, it is their right to believe so. For us to refuse them those rights, is the essence of intolerance on our parts. Are you saying that since you find many of their beliefs to be intolerant, that you are modeling your own belief system in the same manner? My point was that we have removed the catalysts which would serve to teach our children a valuable lesson in tolerance and understanding. We have removed something that provided humanitarian guidelines without replacing it with something else to continue the efforts. And we are floundering in the wake. Human beings have not evolved to a level of enlightenment where we can eliminate the base characteristics of human nature without the hope of some great after death reward.

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      geordmc 6 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

      If "God" is not supposed to be part of Gov't, Why do we have "In God We Trust" on our money. I am an atheist because of all the crap I heard while growing up. Out of all the religions I learned about only a few do not have a intolerable gist about them. For "Christians" the only way to "Heaven" is through Christ. For "Muslims" unbelievers "Shall be put to the sword". Does this sound tolerant to you? It certainly doesn't to me.

    • KateWest profile image

      KateWest 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Very well articulated journey of self.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I'm not so sure that everyone was using religion so much as a crutch, but more as an excuse. (not the youth) The use of fear and shame is a very old method of control. All formal religions were used to that end during ancient times and ever since. In fact, religion was government. That being said, whether religion or governments doing the manipulations, the results are still the same...people don't think for themselves.

      I will say this for religion: At least religion offers a reward for doing what's right. It's that carrot dangling that keeps people engaged. And it's basic human nature. No one does something for nothing. Now, that's not meant in a pessimistic way.

      Everything we undertake is because there the potential for a reward at the end of our endeavors. Even when we do something kind for others, it's because those of us who do so, receive that warm fuzzy feeling in knowing we've made a difference. It's our payoff. Unfortunately, we live in a very material world where humans have come to expect a material reward. When you're one of those who has met with a series of personal disasters, it's very hard to maintain an attitude of kindness and giving. People are just trying to find their way through the rubble and are only interested in finding a way clear, by whatever means is presented. We removed an option without finding a suitable replacement.

      Thanks for stopping by to read. I'm in agreement with your comments regarding spirituality. I feel there is very little of it in formal religions as we know them.

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 6 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Excellent article. Being of the much older generation, i can certainly understand the concerns about the separation of church and state, and its removal from school activities. The fear was that if religion was incorporated into the government we would lose sight of the constitution that promises equality for everyone in this country, not just for those who belong to the christian faith. The unfortunate part of the consequences of stopping this prayer practice in public, is that no one knew how to incorporate the self into their lives; in respect to learning how to accumulate knowledge, process it and make a logical conclusion from that learning. We had all been so accustomed to using religion as a crutch that we never learned how to think for ourselves.

      It is not a scarey proposition to expect people to have the ability to be kind, considerate, and empathetic without the crutch of religion and the threats of an everlasting hell. The main objection was (and still is) that the bombardment of religious ideas into the heads of children before the age of reasoning sets in, was creating such a conflict within their minds that most never really learned to overcome those fears and guilts that were imbedded into them as children too young to understand the concepts that were erroneously being taught to them, or how deep the damage from this misinformation was on the psyche.

      I certainly hope that as the next few generations come and go, religion itself will be left behind, and kept in the homes if those people who desire it to be there, but not in the open forum with those who have intellectually surpassed the need to be subjected to the negativity that religion has always caused. We have confused the religious psycho babble with spiritualism, but as knowledge increases about our greater purposes, the vastness and diversity of our universe, hopefully people will realize that spirituality is way more important than belonging to a cult that worships objects, rituals, and repetitive prayer, and believing that it is the way to salvation.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hey thank you Zatalat! I'm glad raised points were noted. When writing about religion or political affiliations, I don't try to persuade people one way or the other. I believe a religion is simply a matter of choice and politics are only as good as the integrity of the politicians involved. Thanks for commenting.

    • zatalat profile image

      zatalat 6 years ago from Global

      Very thoughtful hub. Your hub raised many important points.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @Learn Things Web:

      You've made some good points. Nicely done! I was born in 1960, so I don't have any recollection of others' reaction to Kennedy being Catholic. I come from a traditionally Lutheran family, but have members in my family that are also Jewish and Catholic. I do recall my grandmother having severe difficulties with the Catholic faith, though none of the younger generation seemed to have any problems.

      I believe some of the hostility you mention regarding Catholics and Protestants has to do with certain practices. Pardon me if I'm mistaken, but I believe both religions embrace the Christian Bible. Since it teaches not to place false idols before God, many Protestants view praying to Mary, or any other Saint, as worship of false idols. They also view the practice of "confession" as being anti-God. They are opposed to the idea that a mere mortal (a priest) has the ability to absolve or forgive sins in the name of God. Personally, I believe it should not matter what path an individual travels if it is one that leads him/her to God. I say that in reserve because I have a very different view of my "higher power." My intention isn't to advocate for any formal religion. I, personally believe that the fighting and bickering over which religion is true and proper, is as anti-God as can be. If people truly believe in their chosen faith, they would believe the power of that faith and their God, would protect them and their's from subversion.

      You said there are many religious clubs and permission to pray in schools. That may be so in SOME schools, but not all. In fact, there are a great many more whose administrators simply do not understand what separation means. I suspect, that they may know and understand, but don't want to deal with the flack they may receive by those parents who are ignorant of the truth.

      Again, when we eliminate situations which call for tolerance, we eliminate the opportunity to teach tolerance. I stand by those words. The continual methods of removing any and all chances of conflict has led to a whole nation who simply can not use critical thinking, or doesn't understand the first thing about satisfactory conflict resolution. These shortcomings have reaches much farther than just the religion issue.

      I don't doubt that many people profess a belief in God. The real question is whether they honor that belief and all that goes with it. A belief in God has taken a back seat to everything else. Very few people worry about their "salvation" when faced with decisions which require selflessness in the face of dangers to survival.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 6 years ago from California

      I think I did misunderstand your point to some extent. Students are allowed to have prayer groups in public schools. There are Christian and other clubs in a lot of public schools. There have been cases where school administrators refused to allow religious clubs to form on campus because they mistakenly believed that it violated the separation of church and state. It doesn't. I think this is probably why I misunderstood you. A lot of people assume that religion is completely banned from schools when it actually is not the case.

      I do agree with you that children should learn about all religions including Christianity in school. But this seems to be more a case of oversensitivity toward students of minority religions.

      A lot of the religious conflicts in schools did seem to be going on in the 60's. Kennedy had to prove that he would be loyal to the US rather than the Vatican. There still is a lot of hostility toward Catholics today from some conservative protestants. Jews also took offense at what they saw as schools being too Christian. A lot of Jews were upset that their kids had to learn about Christmas and make Christmas decorations at school when Hannukah was ignored. That's why I say secularization can be a good thing in schools. People get offended. What you or I might see as promoting tolerance might be seen by someone else as pushing a particular religion on their child. I heard an interview with a Christian father who complained about his child learning about a Jewish holiday. He feared it would undermine her Christian faith to be exposed to the beliefs of others. Religion in school can be a landmine even with the best of intentions.

      According to polls, 91% of Americans believe in God. Like I said, if people don't feel hope, economic and social reasons are more likely to blame. I live in Southern California. Even here people are pretty religious. Most people I know practice some kind of religion. There are churches almost everywhere. Religious belief is still very strong in this country.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I appreciate you taking the time to put so much thought into your comment. However, the topic was NOT about taking "religion" out of the schools. It was about removing prayer and the right of students to pray at all. Our Constitution guarantees that right so long as no public institution endorses one religion over the other. The truth is that, even now, after all these years, endorsement DOES take place. For instance, Merry Christmas is not permitted as a greeting. Now it's "Happy Holidays". Refusing students the right to greet with Merry Christmas is an endorsement of all that ISN'T Christian. It is also a violation of their right to free speech. Several years ago, I was at my granddaughter's elementary school for a "Holiday" concert. The halls were lined with Jewish, African, and Muslim exhibits of their religious holiday celebrations. There was no Christian exhibits to be found. My daughter, who doesn't practice any formal religion was furious that her children had been taught songs about Hannakah and Kwanza, and who Mohammad is to the Muslims, yet nothing of a Christian nature was presented. Her feeling is that schools have no right to teach anything related to any religion whatsoever. It was an example of endorsing certain religions over another. I have to agree.

      As to your comment about Catholics vs Protestants, I'm aware of those conflicts. But if you truly believe that is the reason, you may want to do a little more research. There was a great amount of conflict during the heavy immigration of the Irish and Italians at the turn of the 19th century. The answer was for Catholics to form their own parish schools. And while there may have been some continuing conflict, by the 60's, most people were not caught up in it. After all, we elected a Catholic president who was adored by both Catholic and Protestant.

      But, by your own example, you presented my case for me. Removing "religion" because of conflict between Catholics and Protestants did nothing to teach tolerance and acceptance. It simply pushed the intolerance into the shadows.

      As I said, this article was not about religion, but prayer. Big difference. Every citizen in this country is entitled to practice their faith anywhere they may choose. And while there are guidelines to be followed as to ensuring such practices do not disrupt work or school, the fact remains that our Constitutional rights were compromised when they removed prayer from the schools.

      ".. nice thing about secularization..." I fail to see how allowing a group of students to gather together in a shared prayer will infringe on another person's right to believe whatever they choose.

      As to your comment on hope: I can't really make a rebuttal because you clearly didn't understand what was said in regards to the kind of hope offerred through a practiced belief and the hope placed in one's fellow man. I am curious as to what you've based your belief that most Americans still believe in God, upon. Was there some study done, a poll, or something taken by Americans, or is it your personal opinion based on your knowledge of others in your circle of society?

      Attendence at religious institutions of all faiths have been suffering severe reductions that are growing with each passing decade. The majority of Americans do not stop to determine a course of action to be taken based on a belief in a God. If they believe at all, it's pretty much as an after thought. In fact, most people I know admit to not giving any thought to religion at all until they are faced with a crisis of magnitude.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 6 years ago from California

      A lot of people mistakenly assume that religion was removed from schools because atheists or secularists demanded it. But that isn't true. They were far too small in numbers at that time to accomplish something like that.

      The main reason that religion was removed was because Protestants felt threatened by the growing number of Catholics in American schools. Catholics objected to the Protestant influence in the schools and wanted more Catholic influence. Since Catholics were not particularly liked at that time, this was very troubling to many people. The schools were secularized to prevent Catholic influence in the schools.

      The nice thing about secularization is that everyone can believe what they like. They don't have to worry about someone else's views being pushed down their throats. Many people who advocate bringing religion back to school think it's a good thing because they assume that their version of religion would be the one represented. In our diversely religious country that is highly unlikely and then they will be unhappy when the religion that's pushed in the public school isn't theirs.

      I also disagree with taking out religion taking away hope. Most Americans still believe in God. If people don't have hope there is something else going on. I think the growing gap between rich and poor and the economic instability brought about by downsizing and no longer having a job for life are largely responsible for that.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great! I'm on my way to read it! Thanks for the link!

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      RobSchneider 6 years ago

      I told you I felt a hub coming on. Here it is:

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      During my years of high school the great debate of creationism vs evolution was already beginning. My science teachers all presented both sides of the coin. They explained the scientific side and that we would need to answer test questions according to the scientific notions. However, they were very careful not to tread on personal religious beliefs. There were many students who earned top grades without losing their beliefs. There's no valid reason for changing this way of handling the conflict.

      As for conspiracy theories, I tend to believe that the individual man is to be held accountable for his actions. However, that doesn't negate the idea that there is a select group of people who are intent on destroying many American principles. When you have achieved the accumulation of more wealth than you can ever spend in a lifetime, when you have accomplished all the material dreams and goals you've ever set forth for yourself...what is left but the seeking of total power and control?

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      RobSchneider 6 years ago

      I graduated from high school in 1966. At some time in the course of our four years in hs, just about all of us took a history class from two teachers with radically different political stances. One of them belonged to the ACLU while the other was intensely patriotic in the conservative sense of the word. They joined their classes together one day each year and debated. Their goal was to teach us to think for ourselves. We were very lucky students.

      In the context of your as usual well presented Hub, I like to think the intention of the Founding Fathers was to ensure freedom of religious belief, not separate the State from the higher values associated with religions.

      For what it's worth, when I was younger, I thought the eye logo on the dollar bill was cool. That all-seeing eye at the apex of the pyramid was symbolic of the beneficent wisdom of a non-partisan God. Now it looks spooky and Satanic to me. This change of perception has come to me gradually and not as a result of reading conspiracy theories about the Illuminati, Freemasons, etc. I feel a Hub coming on, so I'll close before I write one here.

      Thanks for another thought and feeling provoking Hub.

    • Terri Meredith profile image

      Terri Meredith 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @wba108: Thank you for taking time to comment. I want to make note: I'm not endorsing one religion over the other. I simply believe that complete removal of any and all religions was a grave mistake. The action simply took away but gave nothing in its place.

      @Dexter: When we are driving, we are very aware of speeding limits. Why? Because we have constant reminders every so many yards. Since we know the repercussions of speeding, and we are reminded of proper speed so often, we are more likely to heed the law. We removed the signs for Monday through Friday when we took prayer out of public school. Children stopped thinking about the lessons learned on Sunday. We also took an ideal which held top priority in most families, and stripped it of its importance by relegating it to only a Sunday activity. Again, I don't advocate any one formal religion over another, and my personal beliefs do not adhere to the perfectly wrapped package presented in the Christian bible, but I truly believe people need to believe in something bigger than self, something beyond the moment. We took that away from our children and have given them nothing for replacement. We are living the repercussions of children left to find their own fulfillment without any guidance.


      You are correct about a couple of things. No one must believe in God to embrace certain ideals. And these things can be taught at home. As for putting any burden on school systems...why would they be burdened by allowing like minded young people to gather in specific areas during the course of the day.

      As for our Founding Fathers...they covered both angles. There was to be no government endorsement of one religion over the other AND there was to be no "prohibiting the free exercise thereof... That means refusing kids the right to prayer, to gather together, etc.. is a violation of Constitutional rights. Too many people don't know their rights under the Constitution and as a result, they allow others who are just as ignorant to dictate their own personal interpretation as a means to justifying their actions.

      This link will clear up any and all questions about our religious constitutional rights:

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      PWalker281 6 years ago

      I remember reciting the 23rd Psalm every morning in my 5th grade class; my teacher was Catholic, I was Baptist, and the year was 1959. I also remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I found reciting both very comforting, but it all felt natural to me because I was raised as a Christian and to respect authority.

      The challenge, I believe, is to teach "the ideals of tolerance, acceptance, care and empathy for the downtrodden, kindness, and humility" - ideals which run through all religions, without focusing on any one religion in particular, especially given the diversity of religions and even no religion that students bring with them to school. I don't know what such a curriculum would be called - Ethics? Values? Morals? Treat People the Way You Want to Be Treated? But taking prayer and Bible reading out of the schools doesn't mean these ideals can't be taught. The public school system either hasn't found or hasn't bothered to find a way to do it. And you don't necessarily have to believe in God to embrace these ideals. It's about having respect for your fellow human being.

      But why put the burden on the school system? What about our parents and our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, etc.? If our children came to school with these ideals already deeply instilled in them and practiced them in their daily lives, not just on Sunday (or whatever their particular holy day is), this discussion would be moot.

      Perhaps our Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that the citizens of the fledgling United States didn't experience the religious intolerance that was perpetrated against them by the governments of Europe from which they fled to come to America. One way to ensure that is to create a government that can't impose one set of religious rules on its citizens, a government that ensures they can practice whatever religion they choose, even if that is no religion at all, hence separation of Church and State. At least that's how I view the rationale for this separation.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Hi Terri. Great hub and message. I agree that taking prayer out of schools was a mistake. To some degree, in my opinion, it has led to disrespect of others, and a breakdown in some of the morals that were taught.

      Your last sentence says it all. Thanks for sharing! Voted up, up and away!

    • profile image 6 years ago from upstate, NY

      Terri Meredith- Thank you for sharing your valuable insights into this issue. Your are absolutely right, removing the Christian religion from our schools and institutions has not done the country any good. I would go much further and say it has deeply harmed our nation.

      It seems that I went to first grade also in 1966 and I remember some of what your saying. Looking back on it, I'm deeply grieved that our nation allowed this to happen. Thanx again for sharing-WBA