If you want a true perspective on American history, just talk to one of the aged veterans who experienced one of the two world wars.
Locally, Gil Henry, the chaplain for the VFW Post 294, Albrightsville and American Legion Post 304, Jim Thorpe, decided to stay home after learning that the Jim Thorpe school district had barred prayers at today's Veterans Day presentation at the L.B. Morris Elementary School. The Army veteran based his decision on principle. After researching this nation's history regarding public prayers, we can better appreciate his stance.
The Founding Fathers made sure the nation's governing document and laws were based on the Judeo-Christian values. One key part in our Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
Our founding document is unique it that it combines secular government with a society based on religious values. The Founding Fathers separated church from state, but they did not separate God from state.
The first settlers felt it was so important to acknowledge a God of Creation that prayer was a part of school life. When the New England Primer was introduced in 1690 it taught spelling, reading and the Alphabet using Bible verses, so those morals were integral to the lessons.
Baby boomers can still remember when our public school day began with prayer or a a scripture reading. Using the "Separation of Church and State" argument, the legal challenges to school prayer began as early as 1948.
In 1962 the Supreme Court again declared that prayer in school was unconstitutional. In 1963 it stopped schools from allowing Bible reading in classes. The chipping away of religious liberties continued. In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled that posting the Ten Commandments in school violated the Constitution.
The battle over prayer continues to this day on the local, state and national levels. We've become so culturally diverse as a country that it's more difficult than ever to satisfy those of all faiths or those who have no faith at all.
Just last week the Supreme Court weighed the question of whether government meetings can, or should, open with a religious invocation. Supporters point out the hypocrisy of such a challenge since both chambers of Congress routinely begin their sessions with a brief prayer, as do state legislatures. Even the justices trying to interpret the Constitution open their sessions with the religious phrase, "God save the United States and this honorable court."
Just six months ago Gallup released a poll showing that almost three of every four Americans believe moral values on this country are getting worse. We don't have to look far to see evidence of the moral and ethical decay throughout the nation.
It's been 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that government-endorsed prayer in public schools is unconstitutional, beginning the debate over the separation of church and state. Opponents feel that decision signaled the beginning of our moral decline as a society.
The battle over school prayer and the so-called war on Christmas is never-ending. We can individually PRAY, however, that our court justices get it right as they try to interpret the intentions of our Founding Fathers when they created our Bible-based Constitution.
By Jim Zbick