Opinion: Prayer doesn’t belong in schools

Published: 7/1/2022 6:02:49 AM
Modified: 7/1/2022 6:00:16 AM

Jonathan Hopkins lives in Concord.

I am a pastor. I love God. I believe that Jesus is my Lord and savior and I raise my children to believe this.

In our house, we pray before we eat dinner. We talk about loving and caring for our neighbors and the planet we live on. We go to worship every Sunday. Faith is an important part of our lives. I don't want or need my kids to learn this in school. I don't need or want my kids to pray in school. I don't need every person to believe what I believe.

In fact, I think it would be a shame if every person believed what I believe. This is not about if we have the right to pray in school. I will leave that up to the lawmakers and Supreme Court. It is about if we should.

Is it really the best way to show our faith? Is it really the best way to love our neighbors? Is it really the best way to follow Jesus? Loving my neighbor means making sure that every person can practice and live out their faith.

A rich and deep religious tapestry is not a problem. It is the strength of any community. I know that I cannot be fully myself if my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist neighbor didn't have space for their true selves. I also wouldn’t want to make it seem that my prayers are more important than theirs. All of our prayers matter. They are given up to something greater than ourselves.

Our prayers are what sustain us in difficult times, and express our gratitude for what our God has done for us. But I can't nor should I make others pray in the same way I do. School is hard enough. Our children have to navigate so much in a day. They are trying to grow into their best selves and doing it as their bodies change, with peer pressure, and trying to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic.

Why are we adding in something else that doesn't belong in that place? If you want your children to pray I would suggest waking up earlier in the morning and praying with them, or praying with them at the end of the day. School is not the place for our prayers or a place to try and get others to follow your faith.

I would offer that God is more concerned about how we are treating each other, about how we care for one another, and how we love one another than about who is converting to "our team.”

If you are a Christian like me, the best thing we can teach our children is to respect other people's faiths and to be curious about them. We can all learn from each other, and in doing so we make our community and world more caring, loving and safe for all people regardless of their religious beliefs.

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