School Prayer Constitutional Amendment Returns in Congress

September 15, 1999 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Like many parents, I was deeply shaken by the rash of school shootings last spring, and wondered how we as a society can ensure children’s safety at school.

Unfortunately, some Members of Congress seem to have decided that the best way to ensure a safe school year is to jettison the First Amendment. Today we see another step in this direction with the reintroduction of the so-called Religious Freedom Amendment.

It didn’t take long after the shootings in Colorado before politicians declared the First Amendment “public enemy number one” and proposed government endorsement of religion as the necessary solution.

Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican of North Carolina, proclaimed that “We took prayer out of school and we have seen the results.”

This oversimplification ignores the thousands of religious leaders and the majority of religious organizations who have come together to oppose this school prayer constitutional amendment and to support religious liberty. It is insulting to parents who have watched urban schools abandoned and school funding cuts devastate the quality of their children’s educational experience.

It also provably inaccurate. Religious involvement flourishes across the country, and youth are no exception. An estimated 10,000 Christian clubs operate in high schools across the country. Even Thomas Solomon Jr., the student who confessed to the suburban Atlanta school shooting, was reported to be a Boy Scout who attended religious services several times a week.

Parents and houses of worship should be responsible for religious education — not government-run public schools.

With school once again underway, parents must let school administrators and elected officials alike know that the solution to school violence is far more complex – and deserving of far more attention and funding – than attacking the First Amendment.

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