10 June, 2011

On the Slow, Steady and Subtle Erosion of Religious Liberty | Archdiocese of Washington

Some years ago I read a humorous but poignant story about public prayer at a school graduation. It took place during the time when tide had just begun to turn against religious displays etc. in the public square, somewhere in the late 1980s. Up until that time prayer by a local minister, priest or rabbi was part of graduation, almost without exception. We certainly had it at my public high school graduation in 1979.

But by the early 1980s the ACLU and other organizations began to insist that prayer of any sort at a public gathering was wrong and violated the (so-called) “separation of Church and State,” (a phrase that does NOT occur in the US Constitution).  And here is where the story picks up:

The class valedictorian of a local Virginia high school (I forget which) was a committed Christian, and also something of a class clown. He was told that, under no circumstances was he to invite his classmates to pray or to mention God in a prayerful way and that, if he did, the microphone would be turned down. Annoyed but not without plans, he “conspired” with five of his classmates to edge prayer into the talk in a creative way. He went to the podium, looked at the crowd, looked at his notes, and looked up again. The atmosphere was tense for others had heard of the forbidding of prayer, and the community was quite divided. Would he do it?  Suddenly, he sniffed, as if to sneeze. “Ah……Ah…..Ah Chooo!” came the loud and rather staged sneeze. At once, five of his classmates rose to their feet and said loudly together: “God Bless you!” And the valedictorian said, “Amen!” Yes, there was prayer at graduation that year, and most of the crowd rose to their feet in tribute to the brief but powerful prayer that had been forbidden.
Click on the following link to read the rest of this story.

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