Student Prayer – Protected under the Constitution

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A young lady graduating from UCLA taped her pre-commencement sentiments recently and was told by a Director of Student Affairs that her reference to Jesus Christ as her inspiration, Lord, and Savior was inappropriate for a public institution and would be deleted. I understand that this faculty member is a professor of biology, but I thought that even Science majors had some courses in American history and government.

On June 4, 2009 nearly 400 students graduating from Pace High School in Santa Rosa, Florida proudly demonstrated their contempt for the ACLU by standing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer during commencement. This protest was a response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of two students who charge that teachers promoted religion at the school. A number of these students emblazoned their caps with crosses. The ACLU went so far as to demand that the administration censor student religious expression at the commencement. In fact, the school was compelled to refuse to allow student speakers at the ceremony. The students refused to allow their First Amendment rights to be be curtailed by the ACLU when the Principal asked the graduates to take their seats at the beginning of graduation. They refused, remained standing, and recited the Lord’s Prayer. As a Catholic Citizen and Civics teacher, I congratulate the Social Studies department of Pace High for preparing their students to be knowledgeable and courageous citizens.

These two case are indicative of the tyranny of liberal secularism. Every lifestyle, every culture, every ethnicity is sacred to them … unless it involves the Sacred, that is. These forces have long waged a quiet war against religion, against the traditional family, against the historic American values that has made America a nation that is the envy of the world.

The First Amendment includes what is known as the Establishment Clause. This clause simply states the state cannot impose a particular religion upon the populace. It also clearly states that the state cannot interfere with a person’s free exercise of religion or speech.

While UCLA and Pace High are  publicly funded institutions and as such cannot open a commencement or other function with prayer. That does not preclude students from making religious references. In fact, Adler v. Duval settled this issue in the 11th Court of Appeals – a decision that the Supreme Court allowed to stand as decided.  In essence, the court ruled that student lead prayer and religious sentiments at a commencement cannot be limited or restricted. Even with the application of the erroneous interpretation of the First Amendment as a ‘Wall of Separation’ between church and state.

Charles Schurz, a great American success story, is the source of the motto on the Catholic Citizen’s banner. “Our Country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right. When wrong, to be made right.” Brothers and sisters, these incidents are yet more examples that our nation has gone astray. Things are wrong…it is time for us to make it right again.


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