Biden’s Education Dept, Warns Against Schools Encouraging Private Prayer And Other Religious Expressions

 May 19, 2023

This week the Biden administration updated its guidance on prayer and other religious expression in public schools. However, the update was written, in a manner clearly warning school employees not to encourage or endorse such activity. The 10-page, size 11 font, single spaced document is entitled Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. It was published on May 15, 2023.

Under the guise of Constitutional freedom, it has far more warnings than protections for prayer and religious freedoms. Biden’s’ Department of Education has gone overboard in detailing what is now not permissible. In discussing its warnings, the Department said, school employees cannot-

 "compel, coerce, persuade, or encourage students to join in the employee's prayer or other religious activity." …"Teachers, school administrators, and other school employees may not encourage or discourage private prayer or other religious activity," adding… [public school officials] "may not mandate or organize prayer at graduation or select speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech such as prayer."

And… "Although school authorities may impose rules of order and pedagogical restrictions on student activities, they may not discriminate against student prayer or religious perspectives in applying such rules and restrictions,"

-Department of Education Update

The update went on to say that schools may take "reasonable measures", to ensure that students aren't pressured, coerced or encouraged to join in the private prayers of their coaches or teachers. However, it did add the U.S. Constitution permits school employees to engage in private prayer during the workday.

According to a Fox News report, the Education Department has written it’s updated guidance, which comes at a time of year when many graduation ceremonies are taking place across the country, quite possibly addressing religion in some form. Among some of the issues addressed by this new guidance were-

  • If a speaker's comments are not attributable to the school, their expression can't be restricted because of its religious content and can include prayer. In such circumstances, school officials "may choose to make appropriate, neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech (whether religious or nonreligious) is the speaker's and not the school's speech."
  • Students have the right to distribute religious literature to their classmates. Schools may impose "reasonable" restrictions on its distribution but "may not target religious literature for more permissive or more restrictive regulation."
  • Student choirs at public schools can perform music inspired by or based on religious themes or texts as part of school-sponsored events, so long as the music "is not performed as a religious exercise and is not used to promote or favor religion generally, a particular religion, or a religious belief."
  • In extracurricular activities, students may organize prayer groups and religious clubs just as they're permitted to organize other, secular activity groups. In the classroom, meanwhile, students may pray and engage in other religious activity to the same extent as non-religious activity when they're not involved in school activities or instruction in order to prevent disruptions in education.

    -Fox News

The update also differentiated between providing religious instruction and teaching about religion. It described providing instruction, as a way of promoting a particular belief system, whereas teaching about religion may be a regular part of historical curriculum. The update stated that-

"Philosophical questions concerning religion, the history of religion, comparative religion, religious texts as literature, and the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries are all permissible public-school subjects,".... "Similarly, it is permissible to study religious influences on philosophy, art, music, literature, and social studies."

-Department of Education Update

Multiple groups responded to the update. Some groups included were-

  • The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty praised the Biden administration's update for protecting students of all beliefs, and denying education officials the ability to lead students in religious exercises of any kind.
  • The American Atheists organization also praised the Biden administration's guidance. Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, argued that the measures-

    "protect the religious freedom of families whose children are in the public-school system."… "We all see through Christian nationalists' lies. They constantly scream 'indoctrination' whenever LGBTQ students affirm who they are. Yet they are actively seeking to indoctrinate students in their hateful ideology,”… . "The Biden administration's guidance protects families from Christian nationalists' hypocritical attempts to foster coercive religious exercise in schools."

    -American Atheists

Contrasting voices claim that religion needs a prominent role in public schools, arguing that negative forces are filling the void that its absence has left, including far-left gender ideology, at many levels, in place of religion.

One example of alternative ideologies seeping in where faith leaves off, is the fact that sexually explicit books are available to children in school libraries that "glorifies masturbation while speaking against religion." This statement was made by Rev. John Amanchukwu, a North Carolina pastor, in an interview with ‘Fox & Friends First’ this week.

Another example, though a somewhat surprising voice, is that of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, who said earlier this year, while speaking to interfaith leadership, at their annual breakfast in Manhattan-

"When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools”..."Don't tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies."

-Eric Adams, New York City Mayor

Our founding fathers likely never believed there would come a day when, pages of don’ts would overcome and overrun the basic freedoms they gave this nation to depend upon for the ages. This “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression”, reads more like a list of indictments for a crime that they refer to as “prayer”. May God himself stand in the gap for America’s children whose religious liberties are being trampled on by the left and their cronies in the Biden White House, as evidenced by the indoctrination of America’s schools against prayer and religious expression.

“Prayer is taking in earnest the central affirmation of religion that there is a responsive Spirit at the heart of reality in communion with whom is our power and peace. True prayer is never an endeavor to change the divine purpose but is always an endeavor to release it through the one who prays into the world.”

-Harry Emerson Fosdick
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