"Seattle--Chinese Southern Baptist Cross" by Joe Mabel / CC BY-SA 3.0

We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far

May 8, 2019

By Margaret Renkl

In 1976 I left a small Catholic grammar school, where we prayed aloud four times a day, to attend a large public high school where we didn’t pray aloud at all. The United States Supreme Court had banned school-sponsored prayer in 1962, but nobody was keeping me from praying. I prayed for help on my biology test. I prayed for the red-haired boy in Alabama History to smile at me, and I gave a little prayer of thanksgiving when he did. I offered up silent prayers of astonishment and silent prayers of gratitude and silent prayers for peace — peace for my own agitated heart and peace for the whole agitated world. I prayed all day long, and no one in my public school had any idea I was praying at all.

It has been decades since I prayed my way through high school, but all across the red states, conservative Christians are still challenging that 1962 decision, constantly pushing the limits of what “student-led” prayer in public school, which the ruling permits, really means. Earlier this year, a 17-year-old student in Louisiana sued her school district for beginning the day with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Technically a student leads the prayer. In reality the student reads from a printout that school officials set beside the microphone.

Conservative Christians are forever trying to inject their personal religious beliefs into the public sphere. Here in Tennessee, the owner of a small-town bakery just outside Nashville recently reneged on an agreement to bake a wedding cake because the wedding in question involved two brides and no grooms. “I really enjoyed our time together and I truly wish you the best,” the shop owner texted one of the brides after the cake-tasting, “but after realizing that your union will be of the same sex, I cannot with my spiritual conviction and beliefs, do your cake!” Nevertheless, she added, “I do love you in the Lord!”

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One comment on “We Are Taking Religious Freedom Too Far”

  • 1
    Cairsley says:

    All good sense. The sad thing about this New York Times article is that it needed to be written at all. Secularism, such as that enshrined in the US Constitution, ensures everyone’s freedom with regard to religion, and conversely forbids the imposition of any form of religion on anyone who does not share it.


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