Education Editorial: Prayer in Schools

Virginia's Governor has recently vetoed two bills involving prayer. The issue of public prayer seems to bounce between conservatives and liberals with little desire for balance. Schools should not be used to proselytize a student to a religious dogma; however, schools should be places where young people and their teachers are permitted to acknowledge their faith.

In 1995 the Attorney General of Virginia wrote, "Religious worship and discussion …are forms of speech…protected by the First Amendment." Mr. Jefferson's Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom was an effort to free citizens of a "state" requirement to go to church or to use their tax dollars to support it…as the Church of England had done. He would probably be appalled that the same effort to permit expression is now used to prohibit it.

In 1994 a Democratic General Assembly and Republican Governor required the Virginia Board of Education to develop Guidelines on the constitutional rights and restrictions relating to religious expression in our public schools. The Governor may not be aware that the same year the President of the United States asked his Attorney General to obtain a copy from Virginia as a model…and his name was Bill Clinton.

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