As I See It: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of free speech

The role of prayer in our schools is a hot button.

One year ago, I observed this issue coming to a head at a local school district meeting regarding the district’s stance on public prayer, particularly regarding the school’s valedictorian, who wished to include prayer as part of his valedictory speech. His prayer never saw the light of public hearing because the school district took a stance to prohibit the prayer. Not much has changed since then.

Why? Because of judicial overreach in the Supreme Court. The justices have taken a bridge too far with applying what the founding founders meant in their drafting of the Constitution and have used the 1st ,10th, and 14th amendments to suit their own subjective ends. Now schools across America are taking their cues from the federal courts.

Some would argue a school’s mandate to prohibit prayer is because there should be separation of church and state, or that there should be neutrality of religion in schools. This mind set is not what the founding fathers had in mind.

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True, the founders wanted freedom from the vice of a tyrannical king and also did not want to impose any undue mandates or strictures on the citizens of the new republic. By logic, it would follow that our founders wanted a secular government. Coming from an imposing, heartless despot who forced his own whims on his people, this would be a reasonable conclusion. However, this premise is totally off base.

No, the founders did not encourage a secular government for the sake of keeping the church separate; they just did not want to advocate for a particular religion. Theirs was not to enforce freedom from religion but rather no establishment of any particular religion. They didn’t believe it prudent to endorse a state sponsored religion.

Not to allow freedom of expression of a religion is where the judicial overreach and school districts that wish to silence tongues should come to task. To not be able to express what is on one’s heart or mind for fear of sounding “religious” is obstructing the 1st amendment.

The 1st amendment of our Constitution guarantees that Congress shall make no law to either establish nor to prohibit the free exercise of religion as well as the 14th amendment that establishes, among other things, that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of its citizens. While the 10th amendment guarantees the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So where is freedom of speech in all of this? What happened to the federated part of our republic where states may use their jurisdiction? What happened to the valedictorian’s right to speak his heart at his own graduation?

Whether one is religious or secular, the following facts are aimed at the person of reason: To be able to think and speak our thoughts and what we believe is all part of our mental “property” and is protected under the Constitution. To shun or censor someone from this is violating that person’s rights under the Constitution.

The rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are guaranteed to us by our Creator, which is clearly defined in the Declaration of Independence and goes hand in hand with the Constitution. The former document declares the “why” and the latter, “how” the people, as a new nation, would guarantee its citizens their rights from God, their Creator.

Should anyone be offended by hearing the prayers of a valedictorian on his graduation day would best be served by remembering that the Constitution does not guarantee one’s freedom from discomfiture at the expense of someone else. The law of the land endorses life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which also includes prayer in the public square. Those of rational thought and mind ought to see plainly what the Constitution actually stands for.

As far as secular government, our founders all agreed with John Adam when he said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”