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Q. Why is it that high school kids can't say a prayer at their football games in Texas, but Congress can have paid chaplains saying prayers for them every day?

A. Both Texas football and Congress have coveted prayer for much the same reason: It blesses their efforts to knock their opponents' heads off. However, Texas football will probably manage without prayer better than Congress would if its chaplains were escorted out the door.

As we recently saw, this issue goes to the core of what Congress is all about--bashing one another; by comparison, it has been fairly peripheral to Friday night wars on the gridiron, despite all the recent fanfare. I refer to the latest fight over who would become the newest chaplain in the House of Representatives. A first-rate donnybrook erupted when a job-search committee recommended a Catholic priest, but the House leaders chose someone else--a Protestant. This is the kind of thing Congress lives for.

The Supreme Court decided that it was wrong for Texas schools to conduct prayer at a football game because it violated the rights of those who didn't believe in the prayer's contents. In other words, it failed to observe government neutrality toward all religions. The Court has not yet received a comparable challenge to the paid chaplaincy system in Congress. That may be because nobody has actually listened to the prayers.


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