Poll: Majority of Americans Support Daily Prayer in Classrooms

In a recent survey by Gallup, 61% of Americans support allowing daily prayer to be spoken in the classroom. Though above the majority level, this percentage is down from 66% in 2001 and 70% in 1999.

This information is taken from Gallup's Work and Education Survey of Aug. 7 – 10. In the same survey, 75% of Americans support allowing prayer at graduation ceremonies, down from 83% in 1999, and 77% support making school facilities available after hours for student religious groups, essentially unchanged from the 78% in 1999.

Americans who attend church regularly are more likely to be in favor of religion in schools. Those who never or seldom attend church are split. Americans who identify with no religion are the least likely to support daily prayer in classrooms, graduation ceremonies, and use of facilities by student religious groups. Protestants and those who identify with other religions that are not Catholic are more strongly in favor of these ideas than are those who are Catholic. Republicans, too, are significantly more religious than other Americans.

The Gallup bottom line was that many Americans feel that religion is important and that a majority of Americans identify with religion. A majority say that religion can solve problems, and three in four say that the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God.

Recently, says Jennifer Harper of The Washington Times, at a Values Voters Summit, the most conservative of Americans spent 72 hours having their say. Some examples:

"We stand for life, we stand for marriage, we stand for Israel. We repeal Common Core. We repeal every word of Obamacare." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

"Keep faith in the American Dream and share it, because the message resonates, and it has since that band of brothers dumped tea in Boston Harbor. We can be optimistic, as they were. We can be optimistic about the future of our one nation because we're under God. So stand up and stiffen your spine. The best is yet to come." Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska

"If you look at the current conservative movement, the Republican Party, there are issues we haven't even lost yet, and we're talking about giving up. Do something. Quit being scared and start being activists and making things happen in America." Rick Santorum, former Republican presidential candidate.

In Medina, Ohio, schools Superintendent Dave Knight, last week put an end to a prayer chain started by teachers and the principal at A.I. Root Middle School, according to Donna J. Miller, reporting for The Plain Dealer.

"Public school staff can't use district resources, including email, to promote prayer, especially when the principal, a person in a position of influence, is involved," Knight said. "When it comes to separation of church and state, it's very clear."

Knight added that an email that requests staff to "keep a family in your thoughts and prayers" is OK, but a chain email "systemizes it". The problem, he continued, is that some teachers might feel that their response was not voluntary. Union president John Leatherman said that several teachers complained about the prayer chain that was sent Sept. 8 and was also included in a staff newsletter. Principal Chad Wise said he did not want to make anyone uncomfortable and would send the emails privately to those who wanted to be involved.

The issue extends nationwide. Children, parents, pastors, and community members gathered in Hartsville, South Carolina to rally for putting prayer back in school. The event was organized by Florence One School Board member Pat Gibson Hye-Moore and Pastor Cliff Leonard, both of whom are concerned about the plunge in morality in America since prayer was removed from school. Heather Clark, in an article for the Christian News, writes that when Hye-Moore, part of the "Put Prayer Back" initiative, refused to stop praying out loud at school board meetings, the movement began that resulted in the prayer rallies. South Carolina representatives in 2013 proposed a bill introducing a moment of silent prayer in schools.

"All schools shall provide for a minute of mandatory silence at the beginning of each school day, during which time the teacher may deliver a prayer, provided the school allows a student to leave the classroom if the student does not want to listen to or participate in the prayer," the legislation outlined.

The bill has not moved forward since its introduction.

Alabama's Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) and Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) plan to sponsor legislation that guarantees public school students and teachers the right to pray in school, says Brendan Kirby of the Alabama Media Group. Their goal is to address this legislation in a way that will "pass constitutional muster". The McMillan-Dial bill: carefully enumerates the student-initiated activities that are expressly protected; prohibits behavior that would infringe on school discipline or would harass others; sets up a formal grievance process involving the principal, superintendent, and finally the courts, if necessary.

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