The rallying cry "put prayer back in schools" can sometimes be heard across the land. The proponents of such a measure will say that the country has gone to heck in a handbasket since prayer was removed from school.
And perhaps in areas where 99% or even 100% of the children attending the school share a religious background it might make sense.
Our school is not that homogeneous. So the question would naturally become "what prayer?" "whose god?" Because in our school it's not even a matter of different Christian denominations with a few Jewish people thrown in for good measure. No there are Muslims and Hindus as well. And probably other beliefs that I'm not even aware of.
This came to mind today because of an incident when I was helping in the school library. A second grade boy asked his teacher (who I happen to know to be Catholic) if God was just a fairy tale. She raised her hands in dismay and rolled her eyes and said "Heavens no, who told you that?"
"My Dad," responds the boy. "He just believes in science."
The teacher turns to me and says "Can you believe a parent teaching their child that?"
I didn't say anything, but I can see a parent teaching their child that if that is what the parent believes. And perhaps that same parent would be appalled that someone else's child is being taught there is a God.
Another boy piped up. "His Dad believes in the devil though."
"You can't have the devil without God," I answered.
The teacher agreed.
"My Dad is from Africa," the first boy said.
Then someone else came to the desk and I didn't hear the rest of the conversation between the boy and his teacher. I did hear something to the effect of "that's not what your mother believes, you should listen to her."
I don't know this boy's family. I don't know what his father believes. But I can see the conversation that could go on tonight.
"I asked the teacher if God was a fairy tale and she said no. She said I shouldn't listen to you."
Now imagine if the teacher was an atheist and a child asked if there was a God. Then the conversation at home would go like this "I asked the teacher if God was real, but she said he's a fairy tale and that I shouldn't listen to you."
Just something to think about.