The Instigator
Tatarize
Con (against)
Losing
41 Points
The Contender
SolaGratia
Pro (for)
Winning
77 Points

Prayer should not have been removed from public schools.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 19 votes the winner is...
SolaGratia
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/24/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 7,784 times Debate No: 5484
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (37)
Votes (19)

 

Tatarize

Con

It is absolutely correct that prayer should have been removed from public schools as was done by Abington School District v. Schempp.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

The government is forbidden by the first amendment to interfere with religion (without a more primary secular purpose).
SolaGratia

Pro

You mention the First Amendment. I think you have a serious misunderstanding as to what this Amendment actually says and means. Let's examine the text.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, adopted as part of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. It is a set of three related concepts, and it is not especially difficult to understand

The three related concepts of the First Amendment:

1. The Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..."

No laws respecting AN establishment of religion; the government cannot choose one religion over another, and is in fact banned from making laws concerning religions.

2. The Free Exercise Clause: "...or prohibit the free exercise thereof."

Congress may not prohibit the free exercise or expression of religion. Very simple.

3. Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Assembly: "...or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The people may speak freely, the press must remain free, the people may assemble peaceably freely.

The first two concern us most in this debate.

Tatarize, it may seem like I'm oversimplifying things. No doubt you have an understanding of the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment does not say: "Congress cannot make any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion except where school prayer is concerned." It says, "Congress...shall not prohibit the free exercise [of religion." Banning voluntary school prayer, which is "school prayer" and therefore part of your resolution, is very clearly prohibited by the very clause by which you defended it. In your argument you said, "The government is forbidden by the first amendment to interfere with religion (without a more primary secular purpose)." I don't see your little addendum anywhere in the Constitution. This is not a conditional amendment.

You may have intended to refer to MANDATORY school prayer. This is clearly unconstitutional. However, you failed to say that either in your resolution or your argument. Therefore, by the rules of debate, it is not part of the debate, and your resolution is, in effect, "Prayer should have always been and continue to be banned from American public schools." (Awkward, but the tense could be argued so I tried to use the Perfect...which English doesn't have, unfortunately...) You can contest this is you wish, but adding something to the debate resolution after the fact is not kosher in my experience.

In short, prohibiting children and young adults from praying to any deity or other worshipful being/object, is a flagrant abuse of their civil liberties. If I wanted to pray to Elvis that I would not fail my Math test, and did so WITHOUT VIOLATING the rights of others, that would be perfectly legitimate. If I violated the rights of others, of course, my right would be negated in that instance. And this isn't just silent prayer. Without being confrontational, loud, or nasty about it, anyone should be allowed to pray anywhere at almost any time; including public school children.

To say nothing of the fact that this also violates the freedom of speech, which as far as I can recall refers to schoolchildren as well.

Conclusion: It is ludicrous to assert that all prayer should be removed from public schools, as you have. It is also prohibited by the First Amendment, which you brought up to defend this idea. That strikes me as a warped view of the First Amendment, and in fact of prayer in general.

Thanks for putting this debate out here, Tatarize. I'm looking forward to it.
Debate Round No. 1
Tatarize

Con

My opponent is under serious misunderstandings of the specific debate topic. The case of Arbington School District v. Schempp, which I linked to, is the case which removed coerced forced Christian prayer from schools.

The case in question is the court case which "removed prayer from school". The topic is correctly against the status quo. Prayer was removed from public schools and thus the debate topic is that it should not have been. Pro specifically is to argue that Abington School District v. Schempp was improperly decided. My goal is to establish that it was properly decided.

My opponent did not properly read the court case referred to, understand what is meant by school prayer, or comprehend my topic as properly stated. He even goes so far as to suggest that "You may have intended to refer to MANDATORY school prayer. This is clearly unconstitutional." -- As this is exactly what Arbigton was concerning my opponent has conceded.

----
The case overview given in the cited article is pretty spot on:

"The Abington case began when Edward Schempp, a Unitarian and a resident of Abington Township, Pennsylvania, filed suit against the Abington School District in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to prohibit the enforcement of a Pennsylvania state law that required his children, specifically Ellory Schempp, to hear and sometimes read portions of the Bible as part of their public school education. That law (24 Pa. Stat. 15-1516, as amended, Pub. Law 1928) required that "[a]t least ten verses from the Holy Bible [be] read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day." Schempp specifically contended that the statute violated his and his family's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments."

We aren't talking about a ban on individual school prayer. That would certainly be unconstitutional by the first amendment and would have been struck down overnight. Unless a student is disrupting class, there is nothing whatsoever to stop them from engaging in the activities guaranteed by the first amendment. However, the law overturned in the Abington case was a law specifically requiring students to pray and to, at times, read from the Bible against their individual rights. This law, 24 Pa. Stat. 15-1516, required the reading of of ten verses of the Bible as a morning invocation. This is what is meant by school prayer. There is no ban on individuals rights to pray on their own time and of their own volition.

My topic specifically refers to Schempp. I am talking about the prayer which was removed from public schools and why it should have been removed from public schools. Which constitutionally it should have been via Emerson, the first and fourteenth amendments.

------

>>"The government is forbidden by the first amendment to interfere with religion (without a more primary secular purpose)." I don't see your little addendum anywhere in the Constitution.

The addendum is on account of such cases as McGowan v. Maryland which held that the blue laws are constitutional because they serve a legitimate secular purpose.

>>However, you failed to say that [the case refers to mandatory prayer] either in your resolution or your argument.

Yes. I specifically referred to the court case. I properly setup the topic. I linked to a good overview of the court case. I was extremely specific in the resolution, "It is absolutely correct that prayer should have been removed from public schools as was done by Abington School District v. Schempp." Considering that there is no ban whatsoever on non-mandatory prayer the topic wouldn't make any logical sense in the context of mandatory prayer.

---

Generally we hear strawman arguments against the "removing prayer from school" as if there is some kind of jack-boot squad preventing children from praying on their own. We are discussing the Pennsylvania statute that required prayer in school conducted by school officials, which was struck down, and thusly removed unconstitutional prayer from school.

My topic was designed to help address this misunderstanding behind the case. I went to a good amount of effort to refer you specifically to the court case and properly phrase the debate topic. It isn't my fault that you don't understand what the law was, the case that struck it down (even though I specifically cited it), and took this debate just to turn around and suggest that your misunderstanding is my misunderstanding, and that I should have phrased the topic different to better fit your misunderstanding.

It is a ludicrous statement that the supreme court began and enforces a ban on personal prayer, it's a strawman argument that the religious right constantly uses and would absolutely be unconstitutional if that was result of the court's action. The case in question is the exact opposite. Children were being unconstitutionally forced into prayer and Bible reading and the court case was correctly decided.

The case in question and the law which removed school prayer was decided properly and prayer should have been removed from public schools, as it was. My opponent out of some kind of bewildering misapprehension has conceded the debate.
SolaGratia

Pro

Yes, I actually, I did read the court case you provided. However, NOWHERE in your post or argument do you refer in any way to mandatory prayer in schools. Even when you say, "...as was done by Abington School District v. Schempp," you do not specify that mandatory prayer is the issue here. As I said before, you may have meant to say it, but it is NOT IN YOUR ARGUMENT. You are free to insert it now, but frankly I agree with you: Mandatory school prayer is unconstitutional. However, we are arguing the resolution that, "Prayer should not have been removed from public schools," not that "Mandatory prayer should not have been removed from public schools." I have not conceded this debate out of "some kind of bewildering misapprehension." Allow me to advise you in the future to clearly state the exact issue under discussion in your argument. I read the Wiki article you provided, but you apparently expected me to ASSUME that you meant specifically the kind of school prayer under review in Abington School District v. Schempp. You don't mention this at all in your post.

Your job as instigator of this debate was to clearly define the terms and the issue at hand. You did not do so. This debate site is set up so that we argue the resolution of the debate. You make points, I respond to them and make my own. You failed to make any points during your first argument, so I was left to argue the resolution. You may contest this now, but if you have failed to fully illustrate the resolution under debate, that is hardly my fault, and I say all we can do is carry on.

I will begin to argue with Justice Douglas' majority opinion from Zorach v. Clauson (343 U.S. 306, 1952.)

"We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses. We make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary. We sponsor an attitude on the part of government that shows no partiality to any one group and that lets each flourish according to the zeal of its adherents and the appeal of its dogma. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe."

Justice Douglas says that America is a religious country. That is true today as it was true in 1952. This is not an unreasonably concept, nor does it contradict the Constitutional amendments under consideration. Free exercise of a religion or lack thereof is guaranteed; and though the majority may be Christian, Jewish, atheist, or Muslim, it cannot exert undue influence on the minority. However, the majority should not be penalized because it is the majority, solely because the minority believes it should be the majority. You, Tatarize, believe that all people should be atheists. That's a natural thing for someone with a certain set of beliefs to say; I wish everyone were a Christian. When the student body of a majority of schools in the nation professes a religion that requires no prayer, i.e. atheism, that will be the time to remove it from the public schools, sanctioned by the government or not.

If a majority of school students are religious, then in the schools where they spend at least seven hours of every week day, there should be provisions for their religion; prayer, free speech about religious activities, etc.

But are the majority of American children religious? Figures for grade school children are nonexistent, but according to Gallup and the National Study of Youth and Religion, (http://findarticles.com...) and (http://www.researchforum.org...), the vast majority of students are in fact religious.

From Gallup:

"The Gallup survey showed that 92 percent of teens consider their religious beliefs important to them. A third say faith is the most important influence in their lives. That number goes up to 52 percent for African-American teens. Close to four in ten say they pray alone frequently (42 percent) and read the Bible at least weekly (36 percent).

Teens report a higher or comparable degree of Christian orthodoxy and confidence in the church when compared to their parents or other adults. Ninety-five percent express belief in God, and 67 percent have confidence in organized religion. Over half (55 percent) call themselves "religious," with an additional 39 percent referring to themselves as 'spiritual but not religious.'"

We can clearly see from these figures that teens, who would probably be affected most by the re-institution of school prayer, are overwhelmingly religious and/or spiritual. Prayer is an integral part of religion and most spirituality; whether these students would pray to God, Allah, or Mother Earth is immaterial. The fact is that the courts have, by making school prayer a covert activity, alienated a far greater group of students than they have enfranchised with these laws, meant to protect the "religious freedom" of our youth. Youths hostile to religion are the only kind disadvantaged in any way by school prayer; and they are few and far between.

At a women's institution, which bathroom has more depositories, the women's or the men's? Though there are laws mandating that a public institution have both, it would be foolish to make them the same size because men just don't go to the women's institution very often. In the same way, if a high school was a perfect cross-section of the ethnic and religious and political makeup of the United States, the majority, as I have shown, would be religious and so, like the women at the Women's Institution, the religious students should be served in proportion to their makeup of society.

By the way, Abington SD v. Schempp was not actually about school prayer, but mandatory Bible-reading, which was done by the teacher or over the PA system. There is a serious difference between these two things, which seems to have escaped you. The Bible is the book of only two religions; prayer is nearly universal among them.

School Prayer is to mandatory Bible reading and by extension Abington v. Schempp, what sheet metal is to a car; many, many things use it, the car is only one example. Bible-reading alienates anyone who does not believe in the Inspiration of that book; school prayer alienates those who have never prayed; few indeed.

"Mandatory school prayer" was never the issue here, according to your resolution. Perhaps because you seem to have a poor understanding of religious customs, the difference between prayer and Bible-reading has escaped you.

The phrase "a wall of separation between church and state" comes from, as I assume you know, a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a concerned church group, which had heard rumors that another denomination had been selected as the National Church of the infant United States. Jefferson was clearly referring to the absence of a national religion in the republic, not a ban on religious activity within government-funded institutions as some have ludicrously suggested, or that religious people should leave all their religious convictions behind when they make the oath of office, go to work, or step into a public school.

And to top that all off, it's not even in the Constitution.

By prohibiting school prayer in any form--making it a covert activity--has clearly violated that troublesome part of the First Amendment about prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and this remains true despite all the half-hearted attempts of modern jurisprudence to nullify i
Debate Round No. 2
Tatarize

Con

My opponent has attempted gotcha debating and failed. His entire argument has consisted of the claim that he could construed the topic to include voluntary prayer, and concedes the argument on mandatory prayer. He has conceded this argument as the resolution can only be seen to apply to mandatory prayer.

There are only two types of prayer which could be removed, voluntary or mandatory. If voluntary doesn't make any sense then I must, by default, be talking about mandatory prayer. Let us test these variations of topic.

Voluntary prayer should not have been removed from public schools.
1) Voluntary prayer was not removed from schools.
2) You cannot argue the pros and cons of a subject that never happened.
-- I cannot be referring to voluntary prayer.

Mandatory prayer should not have been removed from public schools.
1) Mandatory prayer was removed from public schools in Abington v. Schempp.
2) I mentioned Abington v. Schempp in my resolution.
-- I can and likely am referring to voluntary prayer.

I cannot be referring to voluntary prayer in the topic, and I likely am referring to the mandatory prayer which was at the center of Abington v. Schempp. I must be referring to mandatory prayer. I was referring to mandatory prayer. There is no room for interpretation otherwise.

The topic is:
Prayer should not have been removed from public schools.

My opponent is trying to argue:
Voluntary prayer should not be removed from public schools.

I'm sorry, but you can't get there from here.

My opponent has conceded the argument on mandatory prayer.
This argument is on mandatory prayer.
My opponent has conceded this argument.

-----

Mandatory prayer is a violation of the separation of church and state. It is not okay for a government body, such as a public school, to force children to pray and read parts of the Bible against their own religious views. Just as it would be unconstitutional to make them pray towards Mecca or celebrate passover.

The district court's decision in favor of Schempp put it quite well when it said,

"The reading of the verses, even without comment, possesses a devotional and religious character and constitutes in effect a religious observance. The devotional and religious nature of the morning exercises is made all the more apparent by the fact that the Bible reading is followed immediately by a recital in unison by the pupils of the Lord's Prayer."

"The exercises are held in the school buildings and perforce are conducted by and under the authority of the local school authorities and during school sessions. Since the statute requires the reading of the 'Holy Bible,' a Christian document, the practice . . . prefers the Christian religion. The record demonstrates that it was the intention of . . . the Commonwealth . . . to introduce a religious ceremony into the public schools of the Commonwealth."

----

My opponent has offered no arguments that prayer should not have been removed from public schools. He has, in fact, conceded the argument. My opponent wishes to argue that voluntary prayer in addition to mandatory prayer should not be removed (as opposed to "should not have been removed"). My opponent has conceded the argument, and produced no arguments of his own in favor of the resolution.

I'm perfectly okay with gotcha debating. I've done plenty of it myself. My opponent however fails in this regard and cannot interpret the topic as he hoped to.
SolaGratia

Pro

My opponent has used his entire last argument to say that my interpretation of the debate resolution was wrong, and that I have conceded. Wait, who's using "gotcha" debating here?

In fact, nowhere in either Tatarize's first argument, his resolution, or the FULL TEXT of the majority opinion of Abington v. Schempp is the phrase "mandatory prayer" or "forced prayer" used. Tatarize used the general term "prayer" which as he should know is a very vague term. His attempt to define it was one solitary link to a court case that did not actually address prayer. In my book, that's pretty unclear. I read the court case, as well as the dissenting opinion, and yet my opponent accuses me of not reading it (although I actually quoted the dissenting opinion in my argument.)

My opponent has chosen not to respond to the points I made in the previous argument; in fact, he denies that I made any at all. In fact, I did, but his statement suggests to me that he did not see fit to read my argument. Since he has not replied to my arguments, I will restate them here as my points. But first I would like to examine his first argument, from which this confusion on my part arose.

Here, the full text of my opponent's first argument:

"It is absolutely correct that prayer should have been removed from public schools as was done by Abington School District v. Schempp.

http://en.wikipedia.org......

The government is forbidden by the first amendment to interfere with religion (without a more primary secular purpose)."

"School prayer" can mean either mandatory or voluntary prayer; it could mean meditation, it could mean mere reflection. My opponent chose not to specify what he meant by this term. He relied on this court case, Abington v. Schempp, to make his argument for him, although it was apparently too much trouble for him to quote it in the first argument.

Abington v. Schempp DOES NOT ADDRESS school prayer. The Pennsylvania statute which Edward Schempp took issue with on behalf of his children in this case read: "[a]t least ten verses from the Holy Bible [be] read, without comment, at the opening of each public school on each school day."

Prayer DOES NOT EQUAL Bible reading.

My opponent says I conceded the argument by saying that mandatory prayer is unconstitutional. However, neither mandatory or voluntary prayer was at issue in Abington v. Schempp. Bible reading, including (we find later in the case) a reading of the Lord's prayer, was. The Lord's prayer is in the Bible, and can be read or prayed. Nothing in the case indicates that the Lord's prayer was anything other than read. Prayer is generally accomplished in the "devout posture": head bowed, hands folded, eyes closed. When the Lord's Prayer was read in Pennsylvania public schools, it was merely recited.

Even my opponent should be able to see the clear difference.

I will address mandatory school prayer, so my opponent will have nothing to complain about, (well, nothing VALID anyway), and in the small chance that I have misread the court case and the phrase "school prayer."

Mandatory prayer may be unconstitutional. But then again, if, as I mentioned before (in an argument ignored by Tatarize), most students WANTED to pray, devoting class time to prayer (mandatory prayer) would not in fact be violating the Establishment Clause; banning it would in fact violate the Free Exercise Clause.

I have provided figures that show most teenagers (no data for elementary school children) are orthodox Christians, many pray frequently and read the Bible more than once a week. (http://findarticles.com...) Another little argument my opponent has chosen to ignore.

"The Gallup survey showed that 92 percent of teens consider their religious beliefs important to them. A third say faith is the most important influence in their lives. That number goes up to 52 percent for African-American teens. Close to four in ten say they pray alone frequently (42 percent) and read the Bible at least weekly (36 percent)."

All in all, my opponent's last argument was devoted to telling us that I misinterpreted his almost unbelievably vague first argument, and that I have conceded as a consequence. Debate Fail, if I am permitted to use LOLspeak. However, this whole error stemmed from Tatarize's incredibly ambiguity. If I was arguing what he is arguing, I would have said "Mandatory school prayer should not have been removed from public schools." And I would have fleshed out the first argument more. A scanty three lines is simply not enough to clearly state your intention.

Prayer is an integral part of many (possibly a majority) students' lives. Removing a sanctioned time for prayer the "mandatory prayer" my opponent seems to be referring to, is downright discriminatory, but my opponent supports it, in the interest of the "civil liberties" of a tiny but vocal segment of the population who insist that even knowing that a "Silent Reflection Time" was originally meant for prayer would be poisonous. This unreasonable attitude of .001% percent of the population is expected to dictate policy for the other 99.999%.

My opponent's interpretation of the First Amendment concerning religious expression in public schools, and the interpretation of much modern jurisprudence, is based in the assumption that the public school must be "all things to all people." An admirable notion in some ways, but of course impossible. Face it: civic institutions must serve the majority and the minority, equally, but the minority cannot dictate the services offered to the majority. Simply:

Imagine that a store sells one type of oranges. Someone complains, saying he or she is allergic to this variety. The shopkeeper refuses to stock another kind, because it wouldn't be economical. However, when more people complain, the storekeeper stocks a new kind of orange along with the first kind, so that both the majority and the minority can be accommodated. But then the people who are allergic try to ban the store from selling the first type of oranges, saying that the very existence of it is discriminatory to them. The shopkeeper is required by some law to provide services to everyone, so he acquiesces. The minority was accommodated, but then they wanted another slice at the apple: they wanted the majority to eat the same oranges they did.

Imagine that everyone pays this store whether they use it or not, this is the modern public school system and school prayer.

My opponent can be as vague as he wants, but the facts remain: making school prayer a covert activity (it's not even legal to bring a Bible to school. I knew a kid in grade school who brought one just to break the rules) is depriving the "praying majority" of the right to free expression. The government is interfering in the free exercise of religion.

And that is unconstitutional here in America.

Thanks for the debate, Tatarize.
Debate Round No. 3
37 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by knick-knack 9 years ago
knick-knack
Yes, a set Christian or Muslim or watever religion prayer should not be required in school.
But if a student wants to pray, they can.
Posted by my.matryoshka 9 years ago
my.matryoshka
Unless they're praying or meditating when they need to be working. ;-)
Posted by my.matryoshka 9 years ago
my.matryoshka
To a Christian, the topic is a little misleading. It must refer to group prayer or organized classroom prayer, because you cannot simply stop someone from praying.
Posted by jason_hendirx 9 years ago
jason_hendirx
I don't think prayer should be led at any time by faculty members, but kids should feel free to pray anytime they aren't in class.
Posted by gonovice 9 years ago
gonovice
I don't think that prayer belongs in a public atmosphere. However, if a student that has a religion that requires them to pray a few times a day, they could do that to themselves and that way they are still praying. But to have every person in class participate in a prayer isn't really considerate of all the other religions.
Posted by knick-knack 9 years ago
knick-knack
So are you saying a Muslim who is supposed to pray 5 times a day, can't pray while they are school?

Because in my mind that is restricting freedom of religion.
Posted by jason_hendirx 9 years ago
jason_hendirx
>prayer should have been removed from public schools

You make it sound like the military police should put audio bugs in all the schools to make sure the word "God" isn't spoken. I'm an atheist, and I thought your OP was poorly phrased.
Posted by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
Actually yesterday I was at a good 80% win ratio. Later that day it dropped to the low 50% win ratio. I don't actually think I have any imprecision on such issues. This debate was well phrased and established. Voluntary prayer was never removed from public schools so why would anybody suggest the debate was on that topic?
Posted by jason_hendirx 9 years ago
jason_hendirx
And Tatarize, the reason you lose all your debates is because you are so imprecise in defining your terms. That is REALLY important, especially on this site.
Posted by jason_hendirx 9 years ago
jason_hendirx
>Atheism is ideological, it is intolerant, it purports to be the One True Way. It is a religion.

TEACH THE CONTROVERSY

EVOLUTION IS A THEORY

*suicide*
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