President Donald Trump plans to continue pandering to evangelicals this week by announcing his intention to issue new guidance on school prayer in what appears to be an attempt to indoctrinate kids.
Earlier this month, Trump spoke to his evangelical supporters and vowed to take action to force school prayer upon students.
“We are defending religion itself, it’s under siege,” Trump said. “A society without religion cannot prosper. These angry radicals want to impose absolute conformity by censuring speech, tearing down crosses and symbols of faith and banning religious believers from public life. Very soon I’ll be taking action to safeguard students and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools. They want to take that right along with many other ones.”
It should be pointed out that religion is not “under siege,” but has suffered losses as more and more people leave the church because evangelical leaders display hypocrisy, cherry-pick the Bible and preach hate while worshiping Trump as a god. That un-Christian behavior is the reason why Christianity Today called for Trump to be removed from office last month.
And school prayer is not being censored. Students are free to pray if they choose to do so. They simply cannot force prayer upon other students, and neither can the school.
But Trump is apparently getting set to help evangelicals force their way into schools by inventing new “guidance” surrounding school prayer, which he will announce later this week.
In addition to China trade deal signing on Wednesday, WH says Trump’s week will include announcing “guidance on constitutional prayer in public schools” on Thursday.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) January 12, 2020
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) January 12, 2020
Again, school prayer is already legal. Any student can pray in school if they so choose as long as they act individually and do not infringe upon the rights of other students. That means they can’t use prayer to proselytize. Likewise, teachers may not force students to pray and neither can school administrators.
The Supreme Court has definitively ruled on this issue again and again, as Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out in response:
Students already have the right to pray in public schools as long as their actions don’t disrupt class and are voluntary. When Trump’s Christian nationalist fan base talks about “school prayer,” they usually mean some type of coercive worship experience that a majority forces onto a minority against their will.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that type of mandatory, state-sponsored prayer and Bible reading in 1962 and ’63. Religious Right groups have tried over the years to bring these coercive practices back by proposing school prayer amendments to the Constitution. All have failed.
Thus, any guidelines this administration produces will likely either be littered with twisted interpretations of the law or, even if they are accurate, Trump will start boasting that he “brought prayer back to schools” or some such nonsense – just as he claims to have wiped out the Johnson Amendment when he didn’t – and spawn confusion.
Trump’s new guidelines cannot supersede the multiple Supreme Court rulings that have resolved that school prayer is unconstitutional. All he’s going to do is get teachers and school administrators sued because they will foolishly believe that Trump is giving them license to indoctrinate. Once again, Trump is sowing chaos across the nation by assaulting constitutional principles.
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