June 2, 1995 in City

Freedom Of Religion Bars Formal Prayers Anti-Graduation Prayers No One Can Dictate Religious Views

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Risking public scorn is one of the burdens an editorialist volunteers for. So, here goes:

Formal prayer has no place in a public high school’s commencement program. None. Not if Billy Graham leads it, not if the captain of the rally squad leads it.

This stand invites condemnation from readers - some of them friends or even family members - who sense, at worst, a personal attack on their religious convictions or, at best, a mindless plunge into constitutional nit-picking.

For a journalist, reproaches are part of a balanced diet. Not so a capped-and-gowned adolescent fidgeting through his or her high school graduation ceremony, obliged to participate in or silently suffer a formal prayer that contradicts - maybe even offends - the grad’s own religious views.

Fortunately, the First Amendment spares our self-conscious teen the ordeal of openly defying peers by protesting a popular attitude toward commencement prayers.

As former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black put it, “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.”

That’s the law of the land. Still, the conflict over prayer at commencement pops up every spring as predictably as tulips.

Last week, a federal judge signed an order prohibiting Grangeville (Idaho) High School from including a prayer in its graduation ceremony.

Enraged critics claim that denying the use of public resources to support religious expression somehow violates the freedom of speech. After all, the graduates themselves voted on the prayer question, and a majority favored it.

But that’s the point. Americans enjoy constitutional protection as individuals, not as majority-group members. It’s not up to a vote.

The principle at stake is the freedom to practice your own religion as you please, without interference by, or benefit of, the government.

Indeed, every graduate at Grangeville or any other high school has a right to pray earnestly and piously - and separately - to his or her preferred deity.

And no one, regardless of political standing, has the authority to choose which religious views receive the official government stamp of approval and which don’t. Thank God for that.

, DataTimes MEMO: For the opposing view, see the story under the headline Freedom of speech includes prayer Pro-graduation prayer ACLU exhibits unparalleled hyprocrisy

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board

For the opposing view, see the story under the headline Freedom of speech includes prayer Pro-graduation prayer ACLU exhibits unparalleled hyprocrisy

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN, EDITORIAL - From both sides CREDIT = Doug Floyd/For the editorial board

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