Baptists > Issues > Outlawing Prayer & the Ten Commandments
1948: The U.S. Supreme Court  struck down religious instruction in public schools in their McCollum v. Board of Education decision. 
 1954: The Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling,  Tudor v.  Board of Education against the distribution of Bibles by outside groups like the Gideons. 
 1960: Madalyn Murray O'Hair sued the Baltimore MD school system on behalf of her son William J Murray, because he was being forced to participate in prayer in schools. 
 1962: The Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale, disallowed a government-composed, nondenominational "Regents" prayer which was recited by students . 
 1963: In a number of major decisions (Murray v. Curlett; Abington Township School district v. Schempp) mandatory Bible verse recitation was ruled unconstitutional. 
   The public schools controversy has been with us for three generations.  Those who raised their children in the 50s and 60s are now seeing the results of an educational system that has become extremely secularized.
   The Ten Commandments are no longer displayed in classrooms.
   Classes no longer begin with prayer.
   This "one nation under God" has gone beyond the European melting pot of it's past while becoming the home to those who hale from all over the world; those who do not know the God of the Bible nor do all of them recognize the Word of God in any way.
   This 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Santa Fe vs. Doe) says it all, "School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. "
   The result of such decisions, both federal and state, have resulted in a long and bitter battle between Christians and those who do not ascribe to the Bible.  Baptists have been in the forefront of this battle.  In the meantime, those who oppose the use of formal prayer and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools have had to face the fact that the battle has been lost.  Admitting defeat is not a strong Baptist characteristic nor does this writer advise that we do so.  At least, not yet.
   Could it be that we have been too short-sighted in not realizing that what looks like a victory for those who
deny the Word of God may be in fact present a tremendous opportunity to teach a whole new generation the joy of being soul-winners and witnesses for Jesus Christ?
   For example, did you know that students in U.S. public schools are free to:
  • Take Bibles or other religious texts with them on the school bus. 
  • Pray alone or in groups at the flagpole or elsewhere on school grounds.
  • Pray in classrooms outside of regular teaching hours. 
  • Say grace and/or pray in a school cafeteria. 
  • Form a Bible study club or any other religious club, if even one student-led group is already allowed in the school. This is a guaranteed right under the federal Equal Access Act of 1984. 
  • Students can wear T-shirts with religious text. They can wear religious jewelry (buttons, symbols, crosses, stars of David, pentacles, etc). 
  • Students can hand out religious materials.
   One might even argue that we had become too complacent in our own public schools when God and the Bible were included in the everyday educational program.  Young people may have grown up in such an environment assuming that they were Christians without every experiencing the spiritual rebirth.  However, there can now be no mistaking the difference between those who are born again and those who
are not.
   Could it be that this very diliniation between the saved and unsaved presents us with a wonderful challenge to train our children to be witnesses for Christ in a field that is more wide open than ever before for evangelization?
   Could it be that those who now come to the USA from so many foreign lands are the result of God, in fact, bringing the mission field to us?
   Could it be that, instead of bemoaning a lost battle, God is challenging American believers to revive our long history of being an evangelistic soul-winning people?  
   Perhaps the sin is not so much that of a nation turning away from God as it is we believers who had become so weak in regard to our responsibility to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ.

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