A coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers in South Carolina are heading for a showdown with the Supreme Court after a bill was introduced that would impose school prayer on thousands of children.
According to H.3256 at the beginning of each day there would be a moment of silence when a teacher would direct their class in prayer. Those who do not wish to pray would be allowed to leave the classroom.
However the bill is currently being held up by the House Committee on Judiciary, and the Supreme Court has made it clear that, as a blatant case of the state endorsing a religion, the bill violates the First Amendment. One of the sponsors of the bill, Democratic representative Wendell Gillard, offered a compromise whereby the teacher would not so much lead the class in prayer, but would merely set aside a moment of silence allowing children to pray to who ever they like. However the aim of the bill has been made clear by Gillard:
“The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school.”
There cannot be a compromise on an issue as important as this. Written with admirable clarity, the First Amendment makes it clear that the government should should have no say in the promotion of one religion over another. Since this bill is clearly an attempt to covertly import religious practices in schools and is based on the false claim that America is a Christian nation, the bill will almost certainly be struck down as unconstitutional–something its authors must have known, which redoubles the colossal waste of time and money this legislation represents.
If an American wants to pray or go to church they are free to do so, and that right is protected by the First Amendment. However that same amendment means that no American can be compelled to acknowledge a religion, and the state can have no role in the promotion of any form of faith. The only way to protect religious freedom is to have a wholly secular society, and the only way that secularism can be protected is by rigorously upholding the First Amendment.