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Here’s Your Sign

By August 23, 2012Uncategorized

The following is from and is intended to get us thinking. Enjoy.


Well it happened again. There I was, innocently driving my car,  only to come face to face with another bad church sign. Here is what the latest offender said:

“Pray” is a four-letter word that you can’t say in public school.

Really? Let’s get our facts straight before we put them on our church signs. The word “pray” is not banned from public school. Praying isn’t banned either. I remember when my oldest daughter started elementary school, she and a friend used to “say grace” before their lunch together everyday. (That’s in a public school, by the way.) Now in middle school, she is part of a student-led “Bible Club” that meets after school a couple of times a month. She has never encountered opposition from administrators for these things, because it is perfectly legal.

What this church sign is intimating is the Supreme Court decision in 1962 to ban any form of organized, state-sponsored prayer or religious services in school. But we have to also look at what led up to this. Originally, Christianity was taught in the public school. Children actually learned their ABC’s and biblical catechism’s together (for a good little history lesson on this, read Stephen Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy):

A–In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.

B—Heaven to find; The Bible to mind.

C—Christ crucify’d; For sinners dy’d.

School books such as spellers and readers taught biblical knowledge, integrated with their learning tasks. One of the primary motivations for literacy was for more Americans to be able to read their Bibles. Not a bad idea. And yet, these well-intended motivations led to inevitable conflict.

I don’t think it’s helpful to paint public schools out to be our enemy. There were many factors in our American history that contributed to the removal of religious content from the public schools, such as the Sunday school movement and Bible and tract societies, that were not the result of the evil government stifling faith. For the sake of ecumenism in teaching Christianity, religious content was diluted. While it first seemed wise for Christian religions to come together and teach their children, theology had been replaced by morality. The biblical content itself suffered on account of nondenominationalism. We can’t just blame the government for taking the Bible out of the schools. History shows that the Protestant verses Catholic wars on which Bible translation was to be used in schools led to the court cases that banned religious material and organized prayer.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want my children’s public school teachers teaching them how to pray any more than I want my pastor to teach a math lesson from the pulpit. The Fourteenth Amendment required the scope of this federal amendment to be applied at the state level. The first part of this amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, assures me that there will never be an established religion imposed on my child. The second part, known as the Free Exercise Clause, ensures me that “pray” is not a four-letter word. My kids are allowed to pray on their own, as long as they are not being disruptive.

Of course, I don’t want to paint a picture of the public schools with rose-colored glasses. As Christians, we recognize that many of the secular interpretations of natural revelation are taught under a world view that is different from the biblical account of creation. We all want our kids to receive the best education we can provide them in the natural sciences and in the content their faith. Since we are the primary arbitrators for our children’s education, we need to consider all obstacles and benefits of our choices, whether public, private, or homeschooling. And we need to be equally discerning in the churches we join.

We can also acknowledge that some of the best educators are public school teachers.  My husband happens to teach fourth grade in the public schools.  We should be happy to have Christians working in this field for both believer’s and unbeliever’s children.  Hopefully, families will be sensitive in their decision-making not to hold their own convictions about how to educate their children above other families.  These are difficult choices.  None of them are without pitfalls, and we should make our decisions with humility.

It just isn’t helpful to pit the church against public schools. Plastering misinformation or exaggerations on your church sign does not contribute in a positive manner to the problems that do exist.

Ironically, the church across the street from this offender was advertising their extreme couponing workshop on their church sign…

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