Bible Reading and Prayer in School

On June 17, 1963, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Abington School District v. Schempp. The Court held that a pubic school teacher could not lead children in prayer or Bible reading. It continues to be one of the most misunderstood rulings of the Court.

This decision was published during the summer break between my fifth grade and sixth grade year at Biltmore Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida. I do not recall this ruling having any significant impact on my faith then or now.

People said then, and are still saying it today, that when prayer and Bible reading were forbidden in the public classroom that God had been kicked out of the public schools. This article is written to dispel the misinformation about this infamous ruling.

First, the Supreme Court cannot banish the Supreme Being from anywhere. People may ignore God and refuse to recognize His presence, but they cannot remove Him from the public classroom anymore than they can cause the Sun to quit shining. Just because the teacher does not read the Bible in the classroom, or the Lord’s Prayer is not recited as we when we were in school, does not mean we should start agreeing with the atheists that there is no God in the classroom.

While teachers are forbidden to lead their students in prayer or read the Scriptures to them, there is nothing in this decision that denies a teacher or student the right to read the Bible or pray at school when on their own time. A teacher during planning period, or a student in study hall, can exercise their freedom of religion by reading from their Bible and praying if they wish. Both are free to thank God for His providence when they say grace over their lunch.

The idea that reading the Bible or praying is absolutely forbidden in the public school is not true. We come closer to losing the rights we do have when we fail to practice them because of ignorance. Rather than continue to whine and misinform the public about Bible reading and prayer, let us encourage our educators to put a Bible in their briefcase and our children to put one in their book bag and put the Bible and prayer back in our schools.

Christians should remember the responsibility to teach the disciplines of Bible reading and prayer was laid on the parents not teachers. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons (id est, your children) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…,” Deuteronomy 6:6-7. We should not require the school to do what God ordianed the home to do.

Before complaining about the public school system we should remember most of us would not be able to read the Bible or anything else if it were not for public school teachers.

Advertisements

The Mess

When the Supreme Court gave its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges it essentially declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right and all statutes in conflict unconstitutional, I wrote an article titled It’s Going To Get Messy. Last week I wrote about one of those messes in Kentucky where county clerk of court Kim Davis was jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She has been released from jail, but the mess has not been fully resolved.

Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has stated the Christian predicament well, “The Christian church has long struggled to understand how Christian faithfulness is translated into faithful decisions in any number of political and legal situations.” The Obergefell decision introduced a seismic shift in the legal landscape of America. A practice once outlawed in many places is now called a constitutional right.

The non-Christian thinks the answer is simple; just obey the Supreme Court decision. But Christians recognize we will one day face a much higher tribunal, and that triumvirate will not issue a divided opinion.

Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:37-39.

Here is the Christian dilemma; loving God is the “great and foremost commandment” and He has plainly and repeatedly condemned the practice of homosexuality as a sin. How are we to love our neighbor who contemns our God and His Word and obstinately practices a sexual sin, and thinks we should condone their lifestyle merely because it is now legal if they marry? How are we to love the homosexual without condoning the sin of homosexuality?

This dilemma will eventually touch the life of every Christian in America directly or indirectly, and there are no easy answers to what will prove to be a very perplexing question. As we work these situations out it is going to get messy before we get it right. Christian commentators are already divided over the mess with Kim Davis with some saying she acted biblically and appropriately, and others saying she did not.

Of course the LGBT community is not as divided and is united in its denunciation of Kim Davis. She has become the object of relentless name-calling and verbal attacks. They are slow learners. Being thrown to the lions rather than disavow Christ is in our DNA. It will take more than schoolyard taunts to drown us out.

Our intransigence on the issue of same-sex marriage is just a reflection of our love for God and putting His will first, love for our neighbor is a genuine, but secondary concern. It is going to take some time for us to learn how to love the sinner while hating the sin in light of Obergefell. Until then, it is going to be a mess.

A Mess In Kentucky

Back in February I wrote an article titled It’s Going to Get Messy. The article was about how the Christian community will respond to the growing reality of the cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage. Well, we had a mess in Kentucky.

Kim Davis, clerk of the court for Rowan County in Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples because of her Christian convictions. U. S. District Judge David Bunning sent her to jail for contempt. In her absence her deputy clerks issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples and Judge Bunning released Davis believing their actions satisfied the contempt order.

The Kentucky state legislature, like a number of others, has been slow to adopt statutory language on same-sex marriages that would comport with the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Statutes that only recognized marriage between a man and a woman were ruled unconstitutional. Until the state legislature adopts new marriage statutes, it seems the clerks of the various counties of Kentucky have no legal basis to issue a marriage license to anyone, heterosexual or homosexual.

Judge Bunning jailed Kim Davis for not doing something it appeared she had no legal standing to do, issue marriage licenses. Judges have the authority of judicial review, they can rule whether a law is constitutional or not, but they cannot make laws. Only a legislative body can do that.

LGBT activists claim recent polls show a majority of Americans approve of same-sex marriage. But if that is true, why is it there is not a single state that has adopted same-sex marriage by ballot initiative or popular vote? A couple of state legislatures were bullied into adopting same-sex statutes, but in a majority of the states the courts imposed “marriage equality.”

Kentucky state legislators, who are elected by popular vote, have been slow to move on the decision of the Court. They lack political fortitude to do the unpopular. But by failing to act the Kentucky state legislature and others have left the issue of same-sex marriage in legal limbo.

It is probably only a matter of time until the Kentucky and other state legislatures kowtow to the Court’s definition of marriage, a matter that has historically been the sole purview of the states and is not even mentioned in the Constitution.

Like our Founding Fathers I hold liberty to be an “unalienable” gift from God, and thought Kim would have been wiser to resign her office rather than surrender her freedom. But as I contemplated Solomon’s words, “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked,” Proverbs 25:26, I realized we and our communities become defiled when we fail to take a stand for what is right and oppose what is evil.

Judge Bunning released Kim Davis with the warning she should not interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Kim Davis claims she has not changed her mind or resolve. We will see.

The Ashley Madison Expose

“Life is short. Have an affair.” That’s the motto of Ashley Madison, the online business where one could register to have an affair. Some have nicknamed it Adultery, Inc. The website was recently hacked and 37 million registered users have been “outed.” Its motto can now read, “We’ve been hacked. You’ve been caught.”

Like roaches when the light is turned on, many are running for cover. Celebrity Josh Duggar was reported as having two accounts. Supposedly there were 15,000 government employees that were registered. More disturbing than these figures, it was estimated that 400 church leaders submitted their resignations this past Sunday because of their interaction on this website.

The lurid curiosity and quest for details to expose those who have sought the services provided by Ashley Madison may overlook a greater revelation. There may be nothing that lays bare the raw depravity of mankind so clearly as discovering what men and women would do if they think it could be cloaked in utter secrecy.

I am sure there are more revelations to come; it will take some time to sift through 37 million registered users. The heartbreak of betrayal will fracture marriages and divide homes. And as is usually the case, children will be the ones harmed the most by the emotional fallout of unfaithfulness.

There is another revelation coming that will be greater in scope and detail than the hackers of Ashley Madison ever imagined. Paul tells us a day is coming when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus,” Romans 2:16, and “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” Hebrews 4:13. What has been committed in the darkness will come to light on the day of judgment.

There may be some who happened upon the Ashley Madison website by chance. Some told me the name sounded like a fashion line of women’s clothing and would have possibly gone to the site to do some online shopping. Website names can be misleading.

But those who deliberately visited the site fall in one of two categories, the resolute sinner looking for another avenue to fulfill his lusts, and the weakened saint who succumbed to temptation. And since these are matters of the heart and not merely actions only it is difficult for man to distinguish the two.

For the sinner we pray that this crisis would bring a realization of their need to trust Christ as their Savior. For the saint who has stumbled, Paul’s admonition is clear, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted,” Galatians 6:1. It is not a time to judge the penitent, but to restore.