This is a letter to the editor that will soon be published in the Danville Commercial-News

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This is a letter to the editor that will soon be published in the Danville Commercial-News sometime in the next 2 weeks. Comments & Opinions welcome -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Larry Smith Opinion Editor Commercial-News 17 W. North Street Danville, Illinois 61832 4 April 1993 Editor: The recent issue of prayer at high school graduations has become an issue that deeply concerns me. In 1962, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a organized prayer, be it clergy-led or student-led, during a class was a state sponsorship, or endorsement, of religion. This case was based upon the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment, sometimes referred to as "the establishment clause." The establishment clause has been interpreted to mean that the government cannot establish a state religion, nor seem to encourage or sponsor the same. It has always appeared to me that this case should have been sufficient precedent to prevent schools from having prayer at other school functions without requiring another opinion. However, it has taken another 31 years for this to come to pass. Persons who were of a different religion than mainstream Christianity have had to wait 31 years before they were allowed their constitutional right not to have to observe the state, in the form of the public schools, sponsor another religion with their money. Now the trend in the area schools is to allow the student to vote, while the public tells everyone that since our country was founded upon majority rule that this is a fair manner. Yes, our country was founded upon the rule of the majority, but not when the decisions of the majority cross the line and begin to violate the rights of everyone. This is what is happening today in the school districts Covington and Westville, and may soon happen in Potomac. Their school boards and their principals have allowed the seniors to vote on whether or not they would like to have a prayer. This is not rule by a majority vote, this is an example of tyranny of the majority. Even if one member of the senior class at any of these high schools is of a different religion, or different brand of religion than the rest of the class, it infringes upon that person's constitutional rights. Westville even went so far as to obtain a "legal opinion" from the American Center for Law and Justice. That's an important sounding title to me, but I checked it out just to be sure. The American Center for Law and Justice is headquartered in Texas, and its budget is almost completely paid for by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Considering the source of Westville's legal opinion, I consider it worthless and recommend that they contact the Illinois Attorney General's office, or some other impartial legal counsel. A law group that is funded by a fundamentalist religious group is not going to give out an impartial opinion in this case. I do not believe that prayer needs to have anything to do with our public schools. Our public school systems are for education, not for religion. Religion is something that needs to be taught at home, or in church, not at school. One of the reasons that our forefathers created the Bill of Rights was to prevent the majority from trampling roughshod over the rights of the minority, no matter how small that minority was. However, this is what is happening today, in the school districts of Covington and Westville. By allowing the majority to decide whether or not a prayer shall occur violates the fundamental right to religious freedom of those members of the class, no matter how few they are, or even if there is but one. The rights of all must be protected, instead of just the rights of the majority.


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