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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

New school prayer rules are a blessing

Sunday, February 9, 2003

By just about any definition, we're living in turbulent times. Growing areas of concern in Iraq and Northern Korea have the entire world on edge and rightfully so. Two events occurred Friday and though on the surface they might seem unconnected, I for one believe there is a strong connection. On Friday, the Homeland Security Department elevated the terror alert level to reflect a growing concern over an impending attack from Muslim extremist forces. And in a twist of irony, the Bush administration Education Department released new guidelines that ease restrictions on prayer in our schools.

Now on the surface, these two parallel events seem unconnected. But it's easy to argue that the return of God to the public arena is a strong step in the right direction for a country that has drifted for too long from some fundamental beliefs.

In a move designed to clarify the debate over prayer in our schools, the Bush administration offered new guidance on how to handle the issue. And now violations of this new policy can carry a bite in the form of lost federal school aid. Schools must now allow students to pray outside the classroom and teachers are permitted to do the same. Schools and teachers remain prohibited from mandating prayer or promoting a particular religious belief.

Under the new guidelines, students are permitted to pray during school assemblies and teachers are permitted to meet with each other for "prayer or Bible study" before school or during lunch. These changes mark new ground for the issue of school prayer.

Critics of school prayer of course find great concern in Friday's announcement. But all polls indicate that the American public overwhelmingly supports the issue. And it's refreshing that the majority have at long last won this minor victory.

Without getting too evangelical, it truly makes you wonder if some of our problems these days might just stem from our drift away from religious values. If you believe in a Supreme Being - and most of us clearly do - then it's easy to argue that the court's drift to the left on the question of religion could be a source of our problems. Granted, in a world gone amok, daily events shape the future and many of those events are clearly beyond our control. But there remains the question of school prayer and religion in general. Our movement away from religion can't be seen in a positive light. Not if you believe.

Returning school prayer won't ease tensions with our enemies. But it does reinforce the foundations of this nation in a time when that reinforcement is sorely needed.

Maybe there is no connection between Friday's two important announcements. But then again, maybe there is a bigger connection than we realize. For now at least, we can pray the connection improves this world.

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