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Question: Should Idaho Allow Prayer in Schools?

Cranston High School West administrator Kim Magnelli points to where a dedication plaque once stood under a prayer banner in an auditorium at the school in October 2011 in Cranston, R.I. The banner was removed after a ruling in a federal lawsuit brought by atheist student Jessica Ahlquist. (courtesy photo)

Banholzer: Students Should Examine the Powerful Force of Prayer

In the 1920s, the esteemed Harvard psychologist William McDougall suggested that religious miracles might be the result of the collective psychic powers of large numbers of worshipers. Michael Talbot’s book “The Holographic Universe” acknowledges this, as well as documenting several cases where meditative thoughts, intensive prayer, and strong faith in the goodness of humanity all interconnect for healing in various interesting ways that our scientific and spiritual leaders are just beginning to understand at the fundamental levels.

Some spirit-minded scientists speculate that prayer mysteriously creates far-reaching subatomic particles embedded with hopeful intentions. However, molecular levels of exactly how prayer works will probably remain a deep mystery for a long time. And that’s fine, because if we didn’t have some mystique in our lives, it would probably be pretty boring.

Pinning down precisely how the mystery of prayer operates on the quantum mechanics level proves to be elusive, and ironically that elusiveness itself is an element of the great mystery, as documented in fine detail by Martin Gardner in his groundbreaking classic “The Trickster and the Paranormal.” As some pet-owners tease cats with laser beams and the cat never quite catches it, I believe that we are floating in a similar boat under the godly stars within these unexplained realms.

This being said, and as frequently as we encounter prayer, religion, belief, and paranormal phenomena in our daily lives and media, it’s surprising that more public high schools and universities don’t offer deeper studies into these mystical matters. Not only should our public schools permit students to pray in school, if they so choose to do, but I would also encourage that more public schools offer intensive elective studies of kindness, religion, the paranormal, and other related intuitive languages of our hearts and souls.

With idealistic career paths like these opening up, not only might future leaders of our society come to achieve greater levels of tolerance, but broad-minded spiritual studies also could lead to keener understandings, and perhaps even a paradigm shift for an improvement of the human condition. For starters, I wonder how many people haven’t been enlightened yet by the fact that that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran more than Muhammad is, while also Jesus’ Holy Mother Mary is mentioned in the Quran more often than she is in the New Testament.

Jim Banholzer is a Ketchum resident.

 

Marr: Prayer in Schools Inevitably Excludes Students

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When I was 17 growing up in Las Vegas, Nev., a student in my school was brutally assaulted for being (allegedly) a homosexual. An assembly was called immediately. The dean of students made one thing clear: any student engaging in any racist, misogynistic, homophobic or otherwise prejudicial behavior was subject to immediate expulsion. Period.

It changed my worldview (admittedly Judeo-Christian and maybe even a little homophobic) immediately and clearly, like Paul on the road to Damascus. Schools are for everybody!

Schools, as environments of learning, must be about, above all else, inclusion. Unlike church, one does not choose which school one attends. A school is a tiny microcosm of the community in which it resides. It therefore represents all of the cultures, traditions, worldviews, contained within it. To exclude one group for the benefit of another is wrong, and in fact, quite detestable. It’s not as if one is asking that we should eliminate algebra, or PE, or art classes. We are talking about prayer, an unnecessary intrusion into the daily academic life of a student.

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To pray presupposes some god or deity to whom one prays, and a religious tradition that informs the methods and rituals of prayer. So for those who argue for prayer in schools, what would they suggest? That in predominantly Catholic communities students are issued rosaries? That in predominantly Pentecostal communities students speak in tongues?

Who will decide this? Who will decide the prayer the teacher recites and the manner in which he/she recites it? The community? The school board? Soulless government bureaucracies?

The fact of the matter is that even “nondenominational” prayers fail to satisfy the requirements of every religious persuasion in a community, and in this failure we have committed a cardinal sin: the sin of exclusion.

Environments of learning should be just that: places where all children are included, accepted, nurtured, and educated despite their willingness or failure to recite the right words to someone else’s god.

Joshua Marr is a member of the post-indie band Sophia. He is a former Twin Falls resident who now lives in Boise with his wife and newborn son where he is working on his first novel.

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