It’s often hard to explain why separation of church and state matters in communities where one faith largely dominates. I hear it all the time – “we’re all Christians in this town, so why can’t we have a prayer at every school board meeting/graduation/etc.?”
I recently saw an article written by an evangelical Christian appearing on WorldNetDaily that is far more persuasive on this issue than I could ever be. He is against pre-game prayers because of his experience while stationed in Hawaii. He writes, “Christians and others from various Judeo-Christian traditions were in the very distinct minority in this little village that was populated predominantly by people of Japanese and Chinese ancestry. Rather than a church on every corner, as is common in the continental 48 states, Wahiawa had a Shinto or Buddhist shrine on every corner.”
Because of their work in their church’s youth program, the author and his wife attended a local public high school football game.
Coming from a fairly traditional Southern upbringing, I was not at all initially surprised when a voice came over the PA and asked everyone to rise for the invocation…. But to our extreme dismay, the clergyman who took the microphone and began to pray was not a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest, but a Buddhist priest who proceeded to offer up prayers and intonations to god-head figures that our tradition held to be pagan.
We were frozen in shock and incredulity! What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions….
We often advocate the practice of Judeo-Christian rituals in America’s public schools by hiding behind the excuse that they are voluntary and any student who doesn’t wish to participate can simply remained seated and silent. Oh that this were true. But if I, as a mature adult, would be so confounded and uncomfortable when faced with the decision of observing and standing on my own religious principals or run the risk of offending the majority crowd, I can only imagine what thoughts and confusion must run through the head of the typical child or teenager, for whom peer acceptance is one of the highest ideals.
Sara in Philly