Religious freedom should

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2000

apply to everyone

Just as laws should be in effect to protect those who lack religion or who have non-mainstream choices in spiritual matters, they should also protect Christians and others who have deeply rooted religious beliefs.

Apparently, that’s not the case and state officials are not pleased.

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Alabama’s Attorney General has said that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that public school districts cannot lead stadium crowds in prayer will not change things in Alabama.

The statement issued by State Attorney General Bill Pryor indicates that Pryor agrees with the minority in the 6-3 Supreme Court decision.

Pryor insists that school officials "can neither encourage nor discourage student-led prayer or religious speech."

Pryor’s decision is a good one, despite the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court.

While we advocate the separation of church and state as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, we do not condone restricting people from practicing religion anywhere.

The ruling is the result of a Texas case. While local school districts do not practice praying before athletic events, we believe Pryor is right in saying that they cannot discourage prayer, which apparently stands in contrast to the Supreme Court decision.

The minority in the ruling said the decision "bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life." Pryor agrees, and rightfully so.

The issue extends beyond whether or not a person agrees with prayer itself. While we are not in disagreement with anyone’s right to pray, we realize that our Constitution mandates a separation of church and state. Because of this, and not philosophical principles regarding prayer, we think school leaders should not force any person to pray at school functions.

But we believe the Constitution should also protect religious people, and not just those who find themselves indebted to no religious authority. Based on this, we do not agree that our Constitution can determine who can do what at certain events.

Because of this, we contend that Pryor is right to stick to his guns on this issue. Mandating that no prayer can be conducted is as offensive to some people as mandating that a prayer be performed.

Obviously the right answer is a moment of silence before events that would allow religious persons to practice their beliefs privately and independently. But the reality of this situation is the U.S. Supreme Court is forever coming into our communities and is deciding against majority beliefs.

The rights of all groups should be protected, but the rights of a small group should not be protected at the expense of larger groups. This is another case of an ever-growing problem of government control in our lives.

We commend the Attorney General for his decision not to let this ruling affect our state and we hope the bureaucratic national government will allow communities to govern themselves.

That doesn’t seem to be likely, though, given the Federalist philosophy of consolidation of power in a capitol thousands of miles removed from most of the nation’s communities.

It’s too bad our laws are so one-sided and that whenever they come from the U.S. Supreme Court, they always lean to the left, the same way six of the courts members lean.

June 19, 2000 10 PM