As I have traveled the country speaking to students and parents, I have found that most people have real opinions regarding prayer in school. Four themes emerge from the comments I have heard.

First, the prayer ban is merely a symptom of a greater problem.

Students relate to me time and again that their right to prayer has been protected for many years. Students and parents alike were bewildered at the fact that prayer had been supported and even endorsed for years, but suddenly it had become unconstitutional. They wonder how a practice that has been allowed for years is suddenly deemed "unconstitutional." One student at a prayer rally in Stephenville, Texas said, "I guess it's just a coincidence that prayer becomes unconstitutional about the same time that our country is experiencing some sort of morality crisis! I guess when your country is living in sin, prayer is the last thing people want to hear. It's a shame when people use the law to try to prevent their own guilty conscience."

Second, many fear that this is just the beginning of more widespread Christian prejudice.

Most students and parents see this as just one more intrusion upon their religious liberty and freedom. Many are wondering what the courts will be deciding is "unconstitutional" next, especially as it relates to religious freedom. Students sometimes ask me, "When will the line be drawn? Do you think they will eventually be telling us that we can't tell others about God? Why is it that we can have people come into our schools and talk about anything under the sun, but they can't talk about God?"

For years schools have allowed psychologists, motivational speakers, police officers, and even inmates to come in and talk about self-esteem, confidence, personal responsibility and a philosophy of life. But they are not allowed to talk about God. Imagine the frustration of a teenager who is told they can make it in life. They can succeed. They can overcome any obstacle. They can feel good about themselves. But we don't tell them the real solution of how to do it. It's robbery to them.

Third, it is obvious that increasing school violence is linked with the removal of prayer and God's Word from public schools.

I am astounded at the discernment of many of our teenagers. They are more intelligent than most of us give them credit. They hear stories of how a classroom used to be a place of respect, meaningfulness, and learning. Students are angry that they are not offered the same benefits of education that their parents were offered. "When's the last time a government official had to go to his office and worry about being shot by the congressman next to him? When they have to face the same fears in their office that I have to face in my classroom, then they can talk about who knows what's best for students in the classroom."

Fourth, it is clear that the courts and schools want to choose when the banning of prayer and religious content is enforced.

In the Appeals' Court ruling in February, one of the arguments given for the exclusion of pre-game prayers was that the event was not serious enough to warrant prayer. In other words, some prayer is allowed and some prayer is not. Mixed messages about prayer related to school functions have students and parents confused. They attend baccalaureate services sponsored by schools, and in times of great tragedy prayers are offered in schools, and religious leaders are even brought in to schools to talk with students. Students are left wondering if murders, suicides, or other heinous activities are the only way that God will be allowed back into their schools.

A recent illustration of mixed messages and legal pandering going on about the prayer issue in public schools can be seen in the Wedgewood Baptist Church shooting in Fort Worth, Texas, last Sept. 15. Thousands of kids were devastated by the reality of death as seven people were killed while attending a church service.

The following day, calls from school districts flooded the Baptist Counseling Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, asking for counselor assistance and grief intervention groups on elementary, junior high, and high school campuses. Preparing to enter public schools, Christian counselors were reminded of the separation of church state and were ready to enter the schools "religion free."

However, when they got to the schools, students were in such shock that students, parents, teachers, and principles were practically begging counselors to share the love of God with the students to comfort them.

I am not a legal expert. But I have a hard time believing that our schools are better off without prayer. Statistics don't prove it, and teenagers don't believe it. It appears to me that they have a solution to the tremendous problem of crime and violence in our schools.

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