Federal government is a power vacuum and we lose

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2002

By By Brian Blackley, Publisher
I recently read a guest editorial in the Mobile Register relating to the ongoing issue of prayer in schools. While the editorial was dead on the mark, it failed to address something that still swirls in my mind - the real issue of school prayer.
It stated that people should be free to pray silently in non-sanctioned prayer ceremonies before and after school on campus. It further stated that the government protects this right and that those who want to eliminate prayer in schools have no basis to do so. Essentially, their right to avoid prayer doesn't supercede someone else's right to pray.
But is that the real issue here?
To me, it doesn't seem so.
Of course no one can prohibit moments of silence before and after school. Just as no one can temper our right to free speech, no one can prohibit discussions at school regarding any religion.
The real issue is whether or not students should be able to openly pray at school and whether or not faculty members can join them in prayer.
The answer? I simply don't have it.
While I support prayer and believe our country and our children will be better thanks to it, I also recognize constitutional law which was devised to separate church and state in an effort to avoid any one religion from asserting strong political control. In essence, we are seeking to avoid a situation like the one our world once saw when the papacy - more or less - ruled half the planet.
And so it should be. Church leaders should not wield political power to ram their beliefs down the throat of the populace.
But I was raised in a school where we said a morning prayer, asserted our allegiance to our country daily and we stood for something because of it. In fact, I wonder what I would stand for today without those experiences.
Now, as a father, I wonder about my children. I want to have some control over their environment, and it is my obligation to work toward making them the best future citizens they can be. And frankly, I don't know that I will be able to do that on the highest level if they do not have daily exposure to prayer, saying the pledge and learning to believe in something beyond my own teachings to them. They need reinforcement as all children do and will.
How can we, as parents, continue to lose control locally over what goes on in our public schools and take it with a smile? I believe in majority rule, and if the people of Escambia County don't want prayer in their schools, fine by me. I may seek a different learning environment for my kids, but at least I will take solace in the fact that the majority ruled.
But I don't believe that's the case here. Most people I know want prayer in schools. Most of them want the fundamentals of Christianity learned at home and church to be reinforced at school. However, the federal government is making it increasingly difficult for that to happen and it is a shame.
When will we have rights to run things locally in the midst of a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic beast that is asserting control and domination over our country?
We like to believe we are free to make our own choices here in our country, yet regional and local majority rule is consistently ignored. Our growing government is committed to protecting the urban downtrodden at the expense of the suburbanites or of the rural farmers and working people who dominate the heartland.
And while some of us have free choice to send our children to private school - and choose to do so - there are others of us who cannot afford to pay tuition twice through both their taxes and their private school costs.
Freedom is the issue, not separation of church and state. Certainly our state and church should be separated in broad theory, but when do we, as a country of religious outcast who would rather practice our own religion in harsh uncertainty than practice someone else's religion in warmth and comfort, get to decide for ourselves.
We need to restore a sense of regionalism to our country and avoid federalist formulas for consistency from California to New York. It's time for our states to stand on their own.
Brian Blackley is Publisher of The Advance

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