- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Should Satanists be permitted to pray on public school grounds while others are subjected to religious persecution? That is the question.

In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear its nationwide take on government-sanctioned public-school prayer. In short, the nine justices of Warren Burger court said, stop it. There have been other similar iterations.

Yet, isn’t it interesting that students and faculty at public colleges and universities hold prayer vigils on school grounds when violence and bloodshed scare the Hell out of us?

There was an Islamic prayer vigil at an Irving, Texas, school for Ahmed Mohammed, the boy arrested after authorities mistook his homemade clock for a bomb.

There are all manner of prayerful moments held on the grounds of public schools, too.


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Student athletes playing on public fields point their fingers skyward under Friday night lights after scoring a touch down.

Public school coaches huddle with players and sometimes drop to their knees in prayer after a game whether their teams wins or loses. Many of us don’t think twice.

Oh … right … we do.

Or at least the scaredy-cat school officials of the Bremerton School District in Washington State do. On Wednesday, they suspended one of their coaches, Joe Kennedy, because he refused to stop holding his postgame, personal, private prayer, which typically lasted fewer than 30 seconds. Sometimes, Coach Joe was joined by his players and students, and students and players from the other team as well. All the praying was voluntary, and Superintendent Aaron Leavell admitted as much.

The Bremerton stink started not because of Coach Joe, however. It began because the Satanic Temple of Seattle had received an invite from a Bremerton student to protest the praying, and the Satanists accepted. But instead of fixing the problem, school authorities created a new one, religious persecution — in America no less.

Liberty, including the religious sort, is one of the main reasons peoples of different faiths and no faiths love America. Sure, we look sideways at people committed to faiths that don’t, say, fit neatly until the title Christendom. We even poke fun at Mormonism, and Baptists used to want to crucify Catholics and Jews, while some Protestants think it’s OK to pray to a god of toenails.

But punishing a coach, though government employee he may be, for praying is un-American.

Every which way you look in sports there is praying and there is religious conviction.

Professional athletes huddle in prayer before and after games.

Jewish Sandy Koufax famously refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

And if you need something else recent on public school grounds, on Tuesday, faculty and students held a prayer vigil on the grounds of Veterans High School in Macon, Georgia, to honor a 16-year-old Veterans student who was slain.

And is it OK for President Obama to pray inside a schoolhouse?

That is precisely what the president did at Newtown High School in Connecticut on Dec. 16, 2012, when two days after a mass killing, he evoked the words of the Bible, mentioned God by name and told those in attendance to “not lose heart” and “that we has an eternal house in heaven.” And to much applause, Mr. Obama closed with words mindful of a preacher in a pulpit: “May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.”

Even if Bremerton officials are nonbelievers, they could have taken a different road and allowed Coach Joe et al to continue their postgame prayers and allowed the Satanists to do their thing.

In this country, high school football is a religion. And I do not mean soccer. No offense, but soccer is soccer and football is football.

So, here again: Should Satanists be allowed to pray and chant on public school grounds but Coach Joe, the students and others subjected to religious persecution?

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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