On Wednesday, roughly two-million students gathered at their school flagpoles to pray. This was true at thousands of private and public schools in the U.S., and in places including including Ecuador, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Scotland and South Africa.
The right to pray at school was initially affirmed by the Supreme Court in its 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision, which broadly articulated the constitutional rights of students. The decision states that First Amendment rights apply to public school students and that administrators would have to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech. Today, prayers are allowed in schools as long as they are student-initiated and student-led without official endorsement or interference by school officials.
What you may not realize is that in the 1969 case, the ACLU actually defended the rights of the family and not the school district that had suspended the children. The ACLU’s official position is that the law allows for students to pray either audibly or silently (with a few limitations). Next week, we are blessed to participate in another example of Christians exercising their religious freedom: Bring Your Bible to School Day.
So, why do we sometimes hear in the media that these rights are questionable or that they have substantial restrictions? I think it’s fear. People who oppose religious freedom (or say it’s permissible for all other faiths, except Christianity!) are afraid it might lead to additional religious freedoms.
What is Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota doing on these issues? One clear example is our support of House Bill 1275, introduced this past session, affirming the right of students to pray before athletic events. It was signed into law by our Governor. Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota and its allies are also on the front lines protecting and expanding these and other religious freedoms on the national and state level.
So, remember to pray, whether at a flagpole or some other place. Thank our Lord for the freedom our sons and daughters have at school, pray for His continued blessing in protecting our religious freedoms, and ask for His guidance and wisdom as we fight to expand our religious liberties in all facets of life.