PRAYER IN SCHOOLS - A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
April 21, 2015 by Sabrina Duarte-Gibbins
Our state schools are for all children no matter what their religion.
These schools are supported by all the taxpayer and I believe they should be free of any religious observances or coercion. Institutionalising prayers in public schools takes over the rights of parents, and believe it or not some first schools in Gibraltar still have these prayers.
Religion is private, schools are public - it should be appropriate that the two don't mix. Making prayer an official part of the school day is invasive and may well lead to potential cognitive dissonance for susceptible children either during their schooling or in later life. Imposition of prayer due to majority norms is a flagrant and insensitive abuse of school authority. Schools should be teaching our children manners and respect rather than teaching them how to accept religious bullying. Seeing prayers still imposed on children in first schools nowadays is preposterous!
It is dishonest to call any prayer "voluntary" if it is encouraged or required by a teacher. It is coercive for schools to schedule worship as an official part of the school day making the prayers "mandatory" and not "voluntary"
Curiously, many schools nowadays claim to have a "non-sectarian" approach to prayers, with many people trying to argue that it is acceptable for the state to promote, endorse and lead prayers
in state schools. Unfortunately the exact meaning of "non-sectarian" is still very vague. It often seems to mean that any reference or the word "Jesus" is taken out as if this magically makes it inclusive for other religions like Judaism and Islam. What people need to understand, is that such prayers will not, however, be inclusive for non-biblical religions or belief systems and no prayer can be inclusive for non believers who have nothing to pray to, no reason to do so and no dependency on the supernatural.
A 'Prayer' must have content, it must have direction and the only true "non-sectarian" prayer is one which is no prayer at all. Public schools exist to educate, not to change or steer anyone's belief in any particular direction, as children in public schools are a captive audience especially younger pupils who often view the authority figure of a teacher as almost parental. What child between the ages of five to ten years old can view prayers that are recited as part of the class routine as "voluntary", when they may get admonished for not participating or at least may feel that could be the result of non-participation?