The incredibly strong case for a moment of silence – and prayer – in schools
Prayer is one of the most peaceful, hopeful, and faith-centered rituals available to the human race, but it is also one of the most controversial, contested, and maligned practices.
Atheist activists have repeatedly taken to court to restrict public prayer or, at least, diminish and ridicule it. A familiar, oft-spit mantra is “Nothing fails like prayer.”
Even many well-meaning people have a strange and misplaced fixation on “separation of church and state” that causes them to recoil at the very idea of prayer arising in a public space. And yet, prayer centers, inspires and invigorates millions – no, make it billions – of people every day.
At a time when suicides continue to soar and overdose deaths afflict us, our collective despair is at a fever pitch. Yet our culture pushes people further away from faith and connective alignment with the Almighty and closer to self-worship that cannot fulfill us.
That’s why the recent failure of Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s “A Moment of Silence” bill was so amazing. For those unfamiliar, the bill was an effort to “restore protections for prayer in schools” in the state — but it didn’t codify the invocations as some mistakenly feared.
In fact, the text of the bill called for a simple moment of silence that would have been mandatory every school day in South Dakota classrooms. While the bill would have allowed children to “pray in schools at the start of each school day”, the aim was to open up a space for a moment of silence in which students and teachers could focus .
Prayer was an optional component, but the mere idea that people would be allowed to opt into such a practice has been oddly decried by some secular activist groups. When you consider some of the incredibly controversial stuff going around in some schools, prayer seems benign.
“Every student deserves the opportunity to start their day with a calm and quiet moment,” Ms Noem said in December. And who could disagree with that sentiment? Another question, however: Why is prayer so threatening to so many people?
It’s all so weird – and yet here we are, with some of the same people laughing in prayer or claiming it’s both verklempt and panicky failure that it could somehow claw its way into a path in our public school system devoid of spirituality.
It’s a really weird dynamic akin to anxiously waiting for Santa Claus to deliver your Christmas presents when you know full well he’s a figment of the kids’ imagination.
Regardless, Ms Noem’s bill made it clear that the proposed law could not be used to compel “religious exercise”, but the panic continued. The proposal was oddly scrubbed by members of Ms. Noem’s own Republican party on the House Education Committee.
It remains a mystery why people would feel so threatened by a moment of silence, especially as our young people face a cacophony of social noise and chaos. Why not give the masses of device-obsessed young people an unfettered moment to think without the distractions of a screen?
Not only is there no harm in giving students and teachers a moment to reflect, there is actually an immeasurable benefit in giving them space to reflect, especially if they choose to pray to their creator, to reflect on gratitude or to reflect on what the day will hold.
The defeat of Ms. Noem’s ‘moment of silence’ bill may seem small in the scheme of legislative hooplas, but it’s yet another sign of the decaying core of our beleaguered culture and an ever-present lens on the little d care we give to our children. spiritual and emotional health.
We keep failing them again and again, watching the socio-cultural fallout and somehow concluding that our descent into the abyss is actually a gradual step forward.
Our children desperately need prayer. At least they need a focal point that is not the self. A moment of silence would not have solved the riddle, but it would certainly have offered young people and teachers a positive and much-needed respite.
• Billy Hallowell is a digital television journalist, commentator and host who has covered thousands of religious and cultural stories. He is Director of Content and Communications at Pure Flix, and previously served as Editor-in-Chief at Faithwire and former Faith and Culture Editor at TheBlaze.