Guest / Limited Access /

A group of 200 high school seniors interrupted graduation in Russell Springs, Kentucky, last May. Were they taking a public stand against the war? Objecting to the commencement speaker? No, they were protesting a federal judge's order barring a spoken prayer at the ceremony—by reciting the Lord's Prayer in unison.

In the blogosphere, two conflicting interpretations of the Russell Springs protest quickly spread. Many Christians praised the students and heaped calumny on the judge. One blogger in this camp wrote, "I think that the pursuit of anti-prayer measures like this one indicates how dedicated the ACLU is to the eradication of all mention of Christ in our society." Another wrote, "I hope we never have graduation without prayer!"

On the other side, strict separationists warned that the students were forcing their views on the minority (one student filed a lawsuit challenging the annual practice of allowing a graduation prayer by a student chaplain). Civil libertarians said such a prayer at graduation crossed the line of separation between church and state because it was an official ceremony with a captive audience.

Charles Haynes, a thoughtful observer of our First Amendment travails, noted, "The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly declared school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional, even when delivered by a student." Haynes then accused the 200 protesters of attempting "to impose prayer (their prayer) on everyone else." The First Amendment, he added, "protects us from the tyranny of the majority."

I have long criticized courts and commentators who believe the First Amendment was designed to protect people from occasionally listening to religious messages they would rather not hear. On the contrary, the Framers were more ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhat You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
What You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
A more biblically accurate understanding of Jesus' words in Matthew 25.
TrendingAttempt to Market Anti-Porn Ministry to Mark Driscoll Fans Goes Bad
Attempt to Market Anti-Porn Ministry to Mark Driscoll Fans Goes Bad
Craig Gross on XXXchurch email blast to Resurgence list: 'They sold us your email for a penny.'
Editor's PickThe Dance of Suffering and Love
The Dance of Suffering and Love
What to do with our grief for the world.
Comments
Christianity Today
Give Parents a Say
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.