School Prayer

Editor's Note: We have had a number of articles over the years on school prayer. Some time ago a friend sent a copy of a letter that does a great job of illustrating the problem of demanding public prayers in the public school. There has never been a ban on prayer by individuals in public schools, but attempting to force prayer in a society like ours is not only unwise, but unworkable.

Dear John:

As you know, we've been working real hard in our town to get prayer back in the schools. Finally, the school board approved a plan of teacher-led prayer with the children participating at their own option. Children not wishing to participate were to be allowed to stand out in the hallway during the prayer time. We hoped someone would sue us so we could go all the way to the Supreme Court and get that old devil-inspired ruling reversed.

Naturally, we were all excited by the school board action. As you know, our own little Billy (not so very little anymore though) is now in the second grade. Of course Margaret and I explained to him no matter what the other kids did, he was going to stay in the classroom and participate. After the first day of school, I asked him, "How did the prayer time go?"


"Did many kids go out into the hallway?"


"Excellent. How did you like your teacher's prayer?"

"It was different, Dad. Real different from the way you pray."

"Oh? Like how?"

"She said, `Hail, Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.'"

The next day, I talked with the principal. I politely explained I wasn't prejudice against Catholics but I would appreciate Billy being transferred to a non-Catholic teacher. The principal said it would be done right away. At supper that evening, I asked Billy to say the blessings. He slipped out of his chair, sat cross-legged on the floor, closed his eyes, raised his hands palms up and began to hum.

You'd better believe I was at the principal's office at eight o'clock the next morning. "Look," I said. "I don't really know much about these Transcendental Meditationists, but I would feel a lot more comfortable if you could move Billy to a room where the teacher practices an older, more established religion."

That afternoon I met Billy as soon as he walked in the door after school.

"I don't think you're going to like Mrs. Nakasone's prayer either, Dad."

"Out with it."

"She kept calling God `O Great Budda..'"

The following morning, I was waiting for the principal in the school parking lot. "Look, I don't want my son praying to the Eternal Spirit of whatever or to Buddha. I want him to have a teacher that prays in Jesus' name!"

"What about Bertha Smith?"


I could hardly wait to hear about Mrs. Smith's prayer. I was standing on the front steps of the school when the final bell rang.

"Well?" I asked Billy as we walked toward the car.


"Okay what?"

"Mrs. Smith asked God to bless us and ended her prayer in Jesus' name amen--just like you."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "Now we're getting some place."

"She even taught us a verse of scripture about prayer," said Billy.

I beamed. "Wonderful. What was the verse?"

"Let's see.," he mused for a moment. "`And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God."

We had reached the car. "Fantastic," I said, reaching for the door handle. Then I paused. I couldn't place the scripture. "Billy, did Mrs. Smith say what book that verse was from?"

"Third Nephi, chapter 19, verse 18.

"Third what?"

"Nephi," he said. "It's in the Book of Mormon."

The school board doesn't meet for a month. I've given Billy very definite instructions that at prayer time each day he's to go out into the hallway. I plan to be at that board meeting. If they don't do something about this situation, I'll sue. I'll take it all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to. I don't need the school or anybody else teaching my son about religion. We can take care of that ourselves at home and at church, thank you very much.

Give my love to your wife and the boys.

Your buddy,


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