Letter to the Editor: Whose Prayer Will Be Said? 


A recent letter from Ray Anderson regarding the constitutionality of school prayer fails to ask or answer what is always the most important question: whose prayer will be said? 

Am I to assume Mr. Anderson would not object if Islamic prayers are “allowed” to be recited in Lewis County public schools? Would those be Shiite or Sunni Islamic prayers? What religion? What sect of what religion? Jewish prayers? Orthodox Jewish? Native American prayers? Hindu prayers? Buddhist prayers? Catholic prayers? English Catholic prayers? Latin Catholic prayers? Prayers from the African-American churches? Whose prayer will be said?

Public schools supported by all taxpayers are an arm of government. As such, prayer in public schools, forced or allowed, whatever the religious persuasion, represents a de facto government endorsement or establishment. 

Mr. Anderson tacitly assumes that, like in his old Missouri home no doubt, all prayer in schools would be Christian prayers. I would suggest that if he wants children to recite Christian prayers in a privately funded Christian school, that is fine. If he suggests that public schools, supported by taxpayers of many diverse religious and non-religious beliefs, should hold formal or informal prayer sessions, that is not acceptable. 

“One of the great strengths of our political system always has been our tendency to keep religious issues in the background. By maintaining the separation of church and state, the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars.”

“Can anyone refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state .... To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values on which the framers built this democratic republic.” 

“When you say “radical right” today, I think of these money making ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”

Those are not the views of a radical liberal. Those are the views of “Mr. Conservative,”  U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona (1909-1998). 

What Mr. Anderson is espousing is not conservative and it is not about free speech and it is definitely not benign; it is Christian nationalism. Christian nationalists seek to make the United States into a Christian facsimile of Islamic Iran. Senator Goldwater was right on the mark.


Marty Ansley,