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B EFORE Christians
You don't hear as much about that issue today as you once did, but it still comes up occasionally. And it can be as hotly a debated issue now as when the practice of praying in public schools was declared unconstitutional in 1962.
The truth is that even today it is not unconstitutional or illegal to pray in a public school. Any student or teacher can say as many prayers as he likes during the school day--what was declared unconstitutional was the practice of asking [or requiring] students to recite a prayer that was part of any given religion.
When I was a child, the school day began with the Lord's Prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, and concluded with the class singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."
To be perfectly honest, none made much of an impression on us. The Lord's Prayer didn't make us any more religious and the pledge and the singing didn't make us a bit more patriotic. We were just kids reciting things we had been forced to memorize.
Our world didn't fall apart when we came to class in September of 1962 and didn't begin the day with the Lord's Prayer. In fact, nobody I knew even noticed the difference and I don't recall any of the parents or teachers making a big deal out of the federal no-prayer edict.
Later, however, religious America took up the cause and praying in schools became a hotbed of controversy.
Looking back, I don't think it was so much that Americans objected to prayer being excluded from the school day as it was that the government had forbidden the practice.
No one likes to be told what or what not to do and in the 1960s, Washington was coming up with plenty of unpopular edicts.
It was also a time when social values were changing. Customs that had served us well for hundreds of years were being thrown out the window. Many Americans resented that, too.
During my early years, I never heard any of my teachers--and several were preachers--utter any prayer besides The Lord's Prayer.
No one ever tried to convert me to anything in public school.