Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Persecution, Truth

Kindergartner Told Not To Pray At School

This morning, as I checked my email, I saw a headline similar to the one that leads this post and inwardly groaned. It has all the markers of the kind of modern-day Christian persecution story that people love to rally behind, just like this one:

But how believable are these stories? As one of the articles I read this morning points out, there are already some reasons to be a bit skeptical of this story about the kindergartner. If it really happened, then it’s certainly a deplorable situation — teachers have no right to stop a child from saying a prayer. They also have no right to force a child to pray. Sadly, many of the people who become incensed over the first scenario don’t realize they should be just as incensed over the second. The United States government has no right to infringe upon any individual’s religious freedoms. That’s why it’s so important to make sure our government keeps its neutrality.

Many Christians think they would like to live in a “Christian” nation, but whose definition of Christianity will be upheld? Will it be those who believe women should have no authority over a man? Will it be those who believe that all the Old Testament laws are still supposed to be followed, like sacrifice and stoning? What about those who believe interracial marriage is a sin, or those who think worshiping with instrumental music is wrong? These are the same problems that the early pilgrims were trying to avoid when they came to this country. And even then they often got it wrong, as the Salem witch trials illustrate.

We should all be thankful that we have religious freedom in this country. But having religious freedom does not mean we’re “free” to push our religious views on others. So when organized prayer was taken out of public schools, that was not an attack on religious freedom, it was a defense of it.

What really gets me about things like this story and the recent movie God Is Not Dead is that they’re often attempts to make people feel like religion is under attack in the modern world. That’s simply not true. I find the setup for that movie incredibly unbelievable. I can totally see a philosophy professor being arrogant — but a philosophy professor who is that dogmatic about forcing people to give up theism? I don’t buy it. The whole point of philosophy is to consider different ideas. Forcing someone to believe a particular thing runs completely counter to philosophy. And they also make the same old and unfounded accusation that down deep atheists believe the evidence supports God, but we’re just angry with him. It’s ridiculous and inaccurate, but it’s what many people want to hear.

Regardless of whether or not this little girl was really forced to stop praying, I would love to see a story like this promote a larger dialog about what religious freedom really is. I’m not holding my breath though.

60 thoughts on “Kindergartner Told Not To Pray At School”

  1. I wonder if these same people protested the so-named “Ground Zero Mosque”?

    Hey, i’m just reading through the comments on the Omnimalevolent post. Wow! That’s a brilliant discussion. You attract a good crowd, Nate.


  2. The persecution complex is widespread and viral among evangelical Christianity. I, too, would like to hear a “larger dialog about what religious freedom really is”. Thanks for another great post, Nate!


  3. If a teacher really did stop a little girl from praying over her lunch and did in fact tell her it was not not good to pray, then the teacher out of line and acting contrary to school policy and the local (and federal) laws.

    But I do get tired of hearing american christians complain about being persecuted. They’re typically talking about people making fun of them, mocking them, or that people or the government are/is trying to diminish their rights.

    I get tired of this because i dont think there have been any laws that hinder anyone from being a christian. yet many christians want to pass laws that would hinder other religions or pass laws keeping homosexuals in the closet or in jail.

    And as far as the mocking and being made fun of, I’ve seen plenty of Christians mock every religion beyond their own.

    And even to those who do not return the evil for evil, the good book says to count it as a blessing if you endure persecution for the name of christ.

    and for christ’s sake, let the little pray if she wants too.

    I am wondering what prompted the teacher to even interject. usually the teachers are happy if the kids are sitting still and quiet. Was the teacher that much of a tyrant or was the kid screaming in tongues and tossing rattle snakes around? not that I’m judging – it would be her god (or constitution, cant ever remember) given right.


  4. It turns out that this girl’s father owns a Christian book store, and this episode happens to coincide with the release of a book about Christian persecution written by a Fox News correspondent. Plus, no one at the school knew anything about this incident. Maybe that’s all just coincidence… but it does make you wonder.


  5. I remember when I was a kid in grade school there was a boy we all called ‘Sugar Ray’. He was Jehovah’s Witness. Every day we had “devotional”. We’d pledge allegiance to the flag, say the Lord’s Prayer, and the teacher would read a Bible story or some scripture. Every day he would have to leave the room and stand in the hallway or go to the library while we did that. I always felt bad for him. Not only because he was going to hell, but because he kinda was already in it. The other kids would pick on him because he was ‘different’.


  6. Yep. That kind of thing only highlights the differences between people. There’s no benefit to putting kids in that kind of situation.


  7. “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”
    — John Adams —
    (founding Father and second President of the United States)


  8. It puzzles me why so many Christian movies seems really cheesy, its like the default position of an atheist encompasses an underlying resentment of God. Although this may be the case for some, I don’t think this portrayal of the angry atheist is universal.

    Granted I’ve only seen the trailer, but the professor seems rather two dimensional, like a cardboard cut-out of what an “atheist” is.

    Especially when he declares that he is a god of the class. But I suppose if the professor wasn’t presented as a angry and dismissive faith basher then there would be no tension or dilemma in the film to be resolved.


  9. It could be because many Christian films, like all films, hang on narratives that seem to overtly affirm the beliefs of the producers and directors. which is fair enough. but in Christian films I think its often done is a more “in your face” way.

    Its less subtle, it kind of seems sometimes that character development and the complexity of human relationships can be sometimes put on the shelf in some Christian films, and more emphasis is placed on supporting core doctrine. It is possible to have both though.


  10. Hi Nate, while I come from a somewhat different perspective to you, I pretty much agree with what you say. Live and let live – both ways.

    I wouldn’t like to live in an explicitly christian country, or an explicitly atheist country either. A cursory review of history shows that both worldviews are at their worst when allied with the power of the state – I guess because people whose aim is power and greed give lip service to the worldview while using it for their own ends. We are safest in this imperfect world when we have balance and competing interest rather than monopolies.

    But I do see some grey areas. For example, if a marriage celebrant is unwilling to marry a gay couple, should they be free to say no, or is that discrimination? If a majority christian country wants to pray before the opening of parliament, how could they allow the majority to have their way (which is democracy) while protecting the rights of the minority not to pray? Does a Muslim have the right not to read blasphemy against the prophet? Does an atheist have the right not to see a local Council sponsored Nativity scene?

    The principle you endorse is good, but we also need a little tolerance and good humour in working it out in practice.


  11. Hi unkleE,

    I figured you and I would probably see this along the same lines. I think you made some good points, and I agree with you. Thanks!

    Thanks to everyone else for your comments as well!


  12. Well, there doesn’t,as yet, appear to be a barrage of complaints from the school or the teacher in question, so one wonders how much credence this story should be afforded?

    Live and let live is a noble sentiment, yet the bigger issue, that of the child praying to a god, and what she has been indoctrinated to believe is not addressed.

    I doubt whether she is concerned about religious freedom or has any meaningful concept of the idea.

    Not only would the child have been traumatized but she now has the problem of who to believe regarding prayer: Mum and Dad or the teacher?
    As adults each are regarded as ”gods” in their own right in the mind of a small kid, and this is why, I say over and over, keep religion away from children.

    And I take serious issue with the comment posted by Unklee.

    While he espouses apparent wise words about the benefits of a society not dominated by religion his religion commands that he and his ilk proselytize with the aim of converting each and very one of us to save us from damnation, and that poor kid is a product of the diatribe that he and other religious types push, indirectly or otherwise.

    I wouldn’t like to live in an explicitly christian country, or an explicitly atheist country either.

    A perfect example of the arrogance of his christian mindset that casually dismisses Muslims and every other religion.

    If Islam ever becomes the dominant religion in the ‘West’ then atheists might well become his new best buddies.

    Discourage indoctrinating children and the problem of religion will disappear a lot quicker than it already is.


  13. Trust me Ross, that was the least of Noah’s problems! I’ve done a few calculations of my own:

    As you’ll recall, from Genesis, Chapter 6:16, Noah was instructed to make only the one window, which hadn’t been opened for at least eight solid months, and possibly more than nine.

    So if you’re not too busy, can we chat for a moment about cows?

    Cows munch mostly grass and hay – yet they grow big and hefty. Why? Because of the rumen, the first and largest of a cow’s four stomachs. The rumen holds 160 liters (42 gallons) of food and billions of microbes. These microscopic bacteria and protozoa (single-celled organisms that reproduce by dividing) break down cellulose (plant-wall substance) and fiber into digestible nutrients.

    “A cow couldn’t live without its microbes,” says animal nutrition expert Dr. Floyd Byers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    But as the microbes digest cellulose, they release methane. The process, called enteric fermentation, occurs in all animals with a rumen (cows, sheep, and goats, for example), and it makes them very gassy.

    “It’s part of their normal digestion process,” says Tom Wirth of the EPA. “When they chew their cud, they regurgitate some food to rechew it, and all this gas comes out.”

    The average cow expels 600 liters – 157 gallons – of methane gas per day, climate researchers report.

    Let me repeat that, just so I can be sure you understand – one cow – ONE, count ’em, ONE! – produces 157 gallons of methane every single day! Can you see where I’m going with this?

    Assuming a 28-30 day month, and most older calendars were based on a Lunar cycle, so let’s go with 28 just to be on the conservative side – over the 9-month, ten-day voyage, one single cow on board would have produced six thousand, eighty-six point forty-seven (6,086.4733, actually) cubic feet of methane gas! And we know that there were either one or seven pairs of cattle on board. Assuming only one pair – again, to be conservative – that’s still 12,172.947 cubic feet of methane gas, just for the two cows!

    We have no way of knowing how many other species of animals there were on board – by all indications, thousands! – and they ALL farted, along with Skipper Noah and his fearless crew. Face it, I fart, you fart, Pat Robertson farts, for that matter, I’d bet a dollar that the Pope farts (though very, very quietly) – in fact, anyone who doesn’t fart is a freak of nature, and in serious need of health care.

    Now the ark, by this god’s own blueprints (Genesis, 6:15) was three hundred cubits long, by fifty cubits wide, by thirty cubits deep – translated, assuming a cubit to be the standard definition’s eighteen inches, that means the ark was 450 feet long, by 75 feet wide, by 45 feet deep – basically the size of a small ocean liner. Volume-wise (450 X 75 X 45), that amounts to an entire volume of 1,518,750 cubic feet.

    Obviously, we must acknowledge that all of those animals occupied space on the ark, and the space they occupied should be subtracted from the total volume of the ark, if our intention is to determine just how much space was available to hold all of the methane gas produced by those animals over an nine-month, ten-day period of time. But since none of us knows how many animals were purportedly on the ark, clearly we can’t make such an estimation, so we’ll stick with the amount of space available on an unoccupied ark, while realizing that the actual amount of available space, that could possibly contain methane, to be much, much less than our calculations – in other words, we’re using yet another conservative estimate.

    However, there are several things we do know:
    • the ark would have been built to be water-tight throughout a forty-day (and night) deluge, and water-tight means airtight.
    • by this god’s own instruction (Genesis, 6:16), the ark had only one window, about eighteen inches square, and it wasn’t opened (Genesis, 8:6) until nine months and ten days after the cruise began.
    • a single animal, of the size of a common cow, would produce over six thousand, eighty-six cubic feet of methane gas, over 9, 28-day months, plus 10 days.

    That means that it would have taken less than 250 such animals to completely fill the ark with methane gas in less than the time the ark was closed up.

    Now with only one window, on a boat that large, and it, closed for the entire nine months and ten days – the ark was dark. I mean, that was one dark ark – without a window, in an air-tight ark, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.

    But surely they had lanterns, didn’t they? Or at least candles?

    Have you ever heard of a kid holding a lit match near his rear end, to see if the gas in his fart will light? Trust me, it will, but I’ve been assured that the hair will grow back. Methane is one of the most flammable gasses on the planet.


  14. Arch, Interesting angle on things 🙂 all the link indicated was that Noah’s Ark could have floated with the weight of 70,000 animals inside.

    How all these animals could have survived living in such a arc is another consideration. Your assessment doesn’t sound like a very pleasant trip for those on board.


  15. Ark wrote:

    “Not only would the child have been traumatized but she now has the problem of who to believe regarding prayer: Mum and Dad or the teacher?
    As adults each are regarded as ”gods” in their own right in the mind of a small kid, and this is why, I say over and over, keep religion away from children.”

    Ark makes a great point here.

    Nate, I recently read an article about a Baptist Children’s pastor in Alabama who raped so many children that he lost count. There were some pretty interesting comments at the end of the piece and one stuck out to me more than the others. Someone wrote that maybe we should have a minimum age requirement for Church similar to what we have for marriage and gambling, etc. Grant it, I was already heavily indoctrinated in my Pentecostal home as a child and teenager. When I first read that comment, I didn’t think such a law would have helped me. After thinking about it for a few days, I can see where it might have benefited me as a young girl.

    My family attended Church two or three times a week. Those meetings and services led to my enrollment at two different schools associated with the Church I attended at the time. One followed the LIFEPAC system, the other was under ABEKA. As you can imagine, the indoctrination then became a daily way of life for my six younger sisters and me in and out of our home.

    Thanks for your comment, Ark. You bring up a very important concern.


  16. @ Charity

    Whenever I bring this subject up I am inevitably ridiculed from certain quarters simply because people cannot conceive the logistics of implementing such a law without transgressing supposed ”Freedom of Religion” (sic)

    People such as Unklee, who’s comments come across as benign are complicit in this form of indoctrination because his god and its laws supersede anything man-made. And I don’t have to tell you this, obviously.

    It would be logistically impossible to ban religion in the home and any attempt at such draconian implementation would be silly and would only lead to more trauma.

    But there are definitely things that can be done. And your church suggestion a perfect start point.

    It is the willingness or lack thereof to tackle these issues that is the biggest stumbling block. The ”I can’t” mentality.

    The issue of forced circumcision was raised last year in Europe.
    Nothing was done…not yet, but the topic was in the spotlight and this is what needs to be done.

    The key to religion’s (speedier) demise will be whether a child’s rights supersede those of the parents to indoctrinate their children with religion.

    The real champions of this cause will be those deconvertees who will speak up because they have been there, done that and got the Burned in Hell T-shirt and mental scares for their trouble; something the likes of Unklee might sympathize with but will do nothing whatsoever to help prevent.

    Yet, if this was a non issue and religion was The Truth(sic) then the religious would not bat an eyelid, simply because every person who reached an age whereby they were able to practice critical thinking would automatically turn to religion, and naturally the right religion.

    Which would be……..( fill in the blank)

    And that tells you everything you need to know.


  17. The religious know that the best time to snare a child is during its formative years, which is why, in the US, it’s so important to them, to teach religion in the public school system.


  18. Ark and Arch,

    It amazes me of how Christians feel that non believers are being intrusive when we believe that some sort of boundaries should be set in place to protect children from the abuses of religion. However, I seriously wonder if they have ever considered the intrusive ways of religion itself.

    At one of the Christian schools I mentioned, corporal punishment was commonplace. A few of my sisters and I attended there for two years. I can’t begin to get into all of the injustices, humiliation and embarrassment we all suffered there. Let’s just say it was bad, really bad.

    Fundies consider “Jesus Camp” a film that is the exception and not the rule. I know better, it is the rule and not the exception. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Children’s Church are all specifically geared for converting children.

    And Arch, you’re right. I know personally from child evangelists that conversions decrease dramatically among adults. Gotta get them while their young.


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