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Jo Ann Emerson Amendment Puts Religion in Schools at the Whim of a Tyrranical Majority

House Joint Resolution 6 is an amendment to the United States Constitution proposed by Republican Representative Jo Ann Emerson. It reads:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer. Neither the United States nor any State shall prescribe the content of any such prayer.

The words “Nothing in this Constitution” are crucial, and of those “nothing” is worthy of the most concern. These words matter because they overrule all other previous elements of the Constitution, including ones that safeguard American minorities against the tyranny of pushy, proselytizing majorities. The 1st Amendment, which prohibits the use of government to establish religion? Overruled by this Amendment. The 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection under law? Overruled by this Amendment. The demand in Article VI of the Constitution that there be no religious test for office or public trust in the United States? Overruled by this Amendment, if Jo Ann Emerson gets her way.

The Emerson Amendment states that no individual person shall be forced to participate in prayer, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that students at public elementary schools, for instance, couldn’t be forced to witness such prayer over and over again at assemblies and over the PA and through distributed tracts. If this Amendment were to become part of the Constitution, there would be nothing to bar public school principals from being hired on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of the school every day and offer loud, public prayers to Jesus. There would be nothing to bar public school principals from hiring teachers on the basis of their willingness to stand in front of their classes every hour to offer prayerful thanks to the principal’s parochial understanding of God. There would be nothing to bar public school districts from allocating large sums of public money for proselytizing prayer-based religious education of students in public schools. All “voluntary” nominally, to be sure. All meant to push a religion upon others…

…because prayers that do not impose upon others are already constitutionally protected. Jo Ann Emerson, the principal sponsor of this Constitutional Amendment, mentions schools in particular because she knows that the minds of school children are malleable to influence. Even when school prayer is “voluntary,” if it is ever-present it will have its effect. Government schools (and other public institutions) will be turned into agents of whichever church has the greatest numbers, the most money and the most powerful lobbyists.

If you think this is perfectly reasonable because you think that the United States is “a Christian nation,” consider that there are neighborhoods in this country where Christianity is not the majority religion. Do you want Christian kids in American public schools toted to assemblies where the principal extols the virtue of the Five Pilllars of Islam in regular prayer? Do you want born again kids forced to listen to teachers chanting some Wiccan Rede? Does this help you understand what a tangled web of spaghetti this amendment would toss this country into, and why it’s better not just for liberty but for our frazzled civic nerves to leave religion out of our public schools?

12 comments to Jo Ann Emerson Amendment Puts Religion in Schools at the Whim of a Tyrranical Majority

  • Dave

    They just keep whittling away at the Constitution.We should be restoring what Bush,Cheney and Co. took away.Not adding an amendment that will force Christian beliefs on others,if they’re not of Christian faith.

  • Dana Andrews

    Please keep doing everything you can to get this bill passed, Rep. Emerson.
    I have been in daily prayer for H.J. Res. 6 and I believe God will pass it.

    With all the school s that’s been going on, how can anyone question the need for this bill? It is not considered force if a student can remain seated until all other students are finished praying. Or could it be that they feel like the odd man out?

    • Horatio

      Really? GOD is going to pass this bill? Which congressional district does God represent? The 167th district of California? No, God is not omnipotent, and God does not have a seat in Congress, and as much as you want to have your religion command the government of the USA, Dana, that’s not how things work. If you want a theocracy, go to Iran.

  • Dana Andrews

    The First Amendment protects school prayer under the prohibition clause that prohibits U.S. government from prohibiting the practice thereof.

    In fact, public schools were started by the church. that’s how prayer got in the schools in the first place. Thus, the church has every right to put prayer in its own creation.

    • Jim

      But actually, if you go further back, churches were started by an invisible velociraptor. Thus, school principals should be forced to chew the ankles of their pupils every morning.

      • No, no! Public schools were started by potatoes! That’s why they serve tater tots in the cafeteria! Thus, potato farmers have the right to drive their tractors down the halls of elementary schools. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  • Jon

    “at the Whim of a Tyrannical Majority”

    The only tyranny that I see is the one imposed by the left, where they use the shrill voice of decent to silence anyone they don’t agree with. There is no freedom unless it is the freedom they espouse.
    Case in point” during the most recent inauguration the only moment of bad behavior was at the hands of the Left, towards then ex-president Bush as he was leaving office. Imagine the the Right standing up during the ceremony and chanting against Obama…..

    Case in point 2: If you are a Republican and don’t support Obama you are a Racist. If you don’t agree with the Homosexual agenda on moral grounds(a foreign concept to liberals apparently)you are a Homophobe.

  • Jon, what is the “shrill voice of decent”? Do you mean to write “the shrill voice if dissent”? Are you saying that dissent – meaning disagreement with authority, produces tyranny? I’m afraid I don’t understand your logic. Are you saying that the only way to prevent tyranny is to stop dissent?

    I think you ought to observe, Jon, that we’re actually providing you with an opportunity to speak. We’re not silencing you, though we do not agree with you.

    As for protests against Bush, I’d like for you to show me how that protest against Bush back in January prevented any right wing Republicans were silenced by that protest.

  • Jon

    Sorry for the spelling error! I guess that tips the scale in you favor……
    You are well aware of what I am talking about. For instance, when conservatives give lectures at public universities and are shouted off the stage by angry and hostile students. That’s shrill….when you listen and challenge, that civil discourse.

    or by picking on a spelling error and pointing it out while ignoring the obvious intent. You could have hurt my blossoming self image.

    By the way you misspelled “Tyrranical”

  • ShirleyInOz

    The USA is not a country of one faith. Therefore, unless you want school assembly to resemble the UN, with several religions reading their prayers over the loud speakers while children kneel/hold hands/prostate themselves on mats/raise their arms to the sky…. you will keep religion where it belongs. In the home, and in the house of prayer. If you are praying at home, I don’t expect it will hurt your child to not pray at school. If you are not praying at home, why should your child be forced to in a peer group setting. If families spent more time discussing faith, their God, and what prayer means in daily life, they wouldn’t be so hell-bent on making schools responsible for having prayer available on school time.

  • Dana Andrews

    In response to Horatio:

    God made all the earth including the 167th district in California. Yes He is omnipotent because He is all powerful. That’s why He’s God. And yes He is stronger that congress.

    Some people haven’t been to church in years. Obviously, no one is forcing them to observe God in any way. Some people want to put the Lord out but they want to enjoy His goodies just the same. Who do you think provided those goodies?

  • Kevin

    How can you enjoy the goodies when you put the lord out!??

    Leave the lord alone!! whaaaaaaa!

    Jon: you are an ass. you must be thinking of professional idiot and insulter Ann Coulter. Is she the standard you uphold?

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