So. Maria’s daughter Bella got to stand in the hall while her class said the “God is great” prayer before lunch yesterday.

That’s the short version. I’d really recommend going to read Maria’s full version about prayer in a North Carolina elementary school.*

I grew up in a small community, probably much like where Bella goes to school. Everyone I knew went to church. Something of the Christian variety. Our town had no synagogue. Certainly not a Mosque. I remember going to a football game in Branson, Missouri and they prayed for the two teams before the game. Over the public address system. Even at the age of 14 I was like, “Uh. That’s probably not cool with the legal types.” Of course, that was the predominant culture of Southern Missouri, so no one really batted an eyelash over it.

That same year, I attended a lockin sponsored by the Community Ministerial Alliance. Suddenly this Methodist/Disciples/Presbyterian girl was in the midst of Baptists who were talking about hell and Assembly of God people who were waving their hands and testifying during songs. Which pretty much freaked my shit out.

Here we were, all theoretically talking to and about the same God and I was super uncomfortable with how the leaders were going about it.

I still think of that weekend and get a knot in my stomach. I was so uncomfortable. Here I was among friends, in a safe place and I completely freaked out. Of course I could have insisted I was going home – but I kept thinking – this shouldn’t bother me so much, surely it will get better. I also was fascinated, much like a rubber necker watching a crash site.

My mom randomly brought up that retreat just after I wrote this piece – She said she will never forget the sound of my voice, almost in tears saying, “Come. Get. Me.” So I did bail out when I was uncomfortable. I’m proud of myself for that but I wish I remembered that part of the story.

That’s the thing about religion – it’s so intensely personal that one can’t blanket a practice on a large group of people and not get a variety of reactions.

I think it is my responsibility to teach Alex what is important to me when it comes to religion. Which is different from what Scout will teach him about what is important to him when it comes to religion.

Even if it weren’t just completely not legal to lead group prayer in public schools – I wouldn’t want them to do it anyway. Why?

Let’s pick a hot topic. Let’s pick abortion. Just for the dramatic point. Let’s say that you believe that “A”* is absolutely right when it comes to the matter. Your child is in a classroom where in their daily prayer, the leader prays that “B”* will come to pass. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty pissed about my Alex sitting in a situation that forced his participation like that.

(*I use “A” and “B” in place of words like “for” or “against” or “choice” or “anti” because I don’t want that example colored by any opinions I may have.)

What if our children were expected to listen to and participate in the prayers of people who agree with and celebrate the 9/11 attacks?

I would never want the children of people dear to me to be sent away so that Alex could say a Christian prayer while their children would rather say a Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi, Muslim or no freaking prayer at all.

I think there was an absence of malice on the part of the teachers. I think they were just “doing things they way they’ve always been done.” That doesn’t make it right, but it at least makes me want to educate some of these people about the laws in a conversation and not a court room.

I know there will be those who take up the flag of objecting to people “banning God from schools”. Those people might even bring up words such as “Columbine”. I’ve heard it before.

To those people, I say this: If you believe that God is with you always, and your children believe that as well, then believe that God is with your children whether or not they say a prayer before lunch while they are at school. The silent prayer between a child and God is sweeter than any noisy gong.

And y’know it’s *legal* too.

*I cited the incorrect county so I pulled that from the link.