Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

It's All About Me!

Musings by Donna #50 Prayer in School – or Not

The 1st Amendment of the Constitution calls for “Freedom of Speech, Religion, and Press.” Freedom of ReigionthWe are fortunate to live in a country that allows – even promotes – those freedoms. Many countries do not.

So why then is there the constant clamor about not allowing or promoting prayer in schools? I think it is simple. Surely there is prayer in denominational schools, which are generally run by a particular religion. For twelve years I attended a parochial school. We prayed each day. Once a week, we attended Mass with our classmates. We also studied the Catechism, which is a book of questions and answers about our religion. (More than 400 in the Baltimore Catechism #2, which is the version I believe we used.) Q#1: Who made the world? A: God made the world. Q#2: Who is God? A: God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things. Decades later many of the questions and answers still roll off my tongue. It was my job, as a student, to learn and, in fact, memorize each answer – a tedious job comparable to learning the multiplication tables. We were tested on our Catechism memorization skills each Friday – much like our weekly spelling bee. So there is definitely prayer – lots of it – in parochial schools.

But in secular schools, (public schools) which honor the separation of church and state, formal prayer is not a part of the curriculum. Secular schools remain neutral on the teachings of religion. That’s not to say that students, teachers, staff cannot pray in a secular or public school; but they would do so privately. It simply means that formal religious practices are not taught, though religions, as they apply to history, are.

In secular or public schools teachers may not lead prayer because, frankly, which prayer should we lead? Which God should we address? World Religions thShould ALL the students pray to the Christian – God, or the Muslim – Allah, or the Judaic – יהוה (YHWH), or any of the countless other deities that different folks believe in? How would we make that choice? Why should we make a choice? Religion is a private matter – an individual choice. Freedom of religion simply stated means freedom to practice your religion of choice – any religion. And I respect that tenet.

Not everyone likes the same color, the same pet, the same food. We are each individuals with our likes and our dislikes. I prefer the color purple. My favorite animal is a frog. And I’d walk a mile for ice cream – pumpkin ice cream or chocolate chip cookie dough. But you may not like my choices – and that’s OK. You have a right to your choices too. I may not understand why you love liver, (Yecch!), but I respect your preference for it – just like I tolerated my grandfather’s love of Limburger Cheese.Limburger Cheese th (I simply left the room when he ate it.) That stuff smells bad.

The world is made up of many different cultures, many different religions, and many different beliefs. I realize that some parts of our country lack contact with a variety of cultures, perhaps making it difficult for them to relate to people who may be different from them. When I lived in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a child, I didn’t know many people who were different from me. I knew only my classmates, who believed the same way that I did. We were exposed only to Catholicism, and there weren’t any obvious cultural differences. But where I live now, in the Greater New York City area, I am inundated with every culture imaginable. It’s like a beautiful rainbow.

My own classroom of students was a “League of Nations.” Children from the Middle East, Africa, Ireland, Germany, Greece, Children of the World thChina, Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, Russia, Columbia, Poland, India, and the United States were just some of the colorful places where my children came from. I didn’t know what their religious preference was. And frankly, I didn’t care. What I did care about though was training them to discriminate between right and wrong, guiding them to care for their fellow travelers on this planet, and teaching them to be the best person they can be – to care for themselves and to care for others. Isn’t that what religion is all about anyway? Isn’t that what humanity is all about?

Rote prayer in school – reciting meaningless words aloud – without feeling behind it, is not the answer. Religion is private. It is the dialogue we hold within ourselves in an attempt to connect to a higher being or to make sense of our crazy world.

Please feel free to leave a comment. Simply click the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Also please pass this blog on to your friends and they to theirs.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)


December 28, 2012 - Posted by | Musings by Donna | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Excellent blog. I so admire the clarity of your writing.

    Comment by Harriet Halpern | December 29, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Harriet,
      Oh, I am so excited to see your comment here. Thank you so much for reading my blog and for taking the time to respond. I, too, respect you and your writing, so your thoughts are very important to me.
      Hugs, Donna ♥♥♥♥

      Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | December 29, 2012 | Reply

  2. I agree with you- Back in Erie my friends from Emerson Elem school knew their bible better than I did at Villa elem. Then all H broke loose and No prayer in school. Can we compromise with a moment of silence before the pledge. Pray or just stand there. Also calms the room and gets everyone “settled” before class starts.—Yes I read and enjoy your blogs, which is rare as I do not read any other blogs. I have never texted-twittered, taken a photo with a phone. I have x amount of time to communicate on line each day-then I am done unless someone calls my land line, or leaves a message. Total freedom from overload, freedom for my own thoughts.

    Comment by Colleen Gallagher | January 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Colleen, do you mean no prayer in your parochial school, Villa Elementary, or in the public schools? A moment of silence would work. I agree it would also get everyone calm before class begins.

      Thanks for reading. I’m flattered.

      Hugs, Donna ♥♥♥♥

      Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski | January 1, 2013 | Reply

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