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
17 W. North Street
Danville, Illinois 61832
4 April 1993
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
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
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.