20 January 2015

Prayer in schools, prayer here in September

I swear, kids in actual religious schools can get less churchin' than what kids in public schools encounter any more:
Another student, Kyle, says that the influence of religion isn't restricted to football. Kyle, who is Jewish, played on the baseball team for two years. His teammates said Christian prayers before every game. "I just said the prayers to go along with everybody," Kyle adds with an uncertain shrug. "You don’t want to be, you know, that guy."
I think I have a vague memory of our class having to say grace before lunch, circa 1977. But by the time I was 9 or 10 it was all strictly a "moment of silence" after the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning. Oh, and there was that history teacher in high school who was a young-earth creationist, but whatever -- the school year is a limited timeframe, so who cares if we start the class timeline only within some certain date of recorded history?

It's bizarro to me, the evangelical Protestant need to be constantly witnessing, this all-Jesus, all the time thing. Praying before a school assembly, praying before a basketball game, praying at the school's flagpole. Wishing someone a blessed day instead of a merely good one. Saying an endless, extemporized prayer at a meal instead of reciting a short but meaningful, if formulaic, blessing.

In the end I guess I'm always brought around again to Matthew 6:5-8. It fascinates me that many constant-prayer evangelicals are biblical literalists, but it doesn't even take a literal interpretation of that passage to see that this kind of thing isn't allowed.

In other news, the pope is coming! The pope is coming! Last time this happened, the city built a platform for Mass, left it up for a week for people to gawk at, and lost a pretty embarrassing case in the Third Circuit (PDF). The best, because so quietly understated, line from the appellate opinion: "The City thus created a temporary shrine. Such activity is not compatible with the Constitution." Gilfillan v. City of Philadelphia, 637 F. 2d 924, 931. But late September can mean some wonderful weather here in the city, great weather for another outdoor Mass. It'll be interesting to see if the city tries shenanigans again to pay for it.

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