MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A proposed bill in Alabama would require public school teachers to read Congressional prayers out loud to students each day.
“If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama Legislature can, I don’t see why schools can’t,” sponsor Steve Hurst (R-Munford) told the Anniston Star.
Hurst’s bill, HB 318, would focus on teaching the formal procedures of Congress during the first period of the day, which would include the prayer that is presented each morning by a chaplain or religious leader.
“At the commencement of the first class of each day in all grades in all public schools, the teacher in charge of the room in which such class is held shall, for a period of time not exceeding 15 minutes, instruct the class in the formal procedures followed by the United States Congress,” the legislation reads. “The study shall include, but not be limited to, a reading verbatim of one of the opening prayers given by the House or Senate Chaplain or a guest member of the clergy at the beginning of a meeting of the House of Representatives or the Senate.”
Hurst said that teachers can select a prayer from any particular day that they would like.
“They could read the prayer from the day war was declared in World War II,” he stated. “They could read the prayer the day after September 11.”
However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama contends that the bill is a surreptitious way to include teacher-led prayer in classrooms.
“Religious practices and beliefs are best taught at home and in our religious institutions,” director Susan Watson asserted to reporters. “The Alabama legislature can try to pass anything it wants, but our public schools must still abide by the United States Constitution.”
But others may note that religious studies were included in public schools in early America. As previously reported, the first textbook used in the nation even before its founding, The New England Primer, was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was brought to the land by the Puritans. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all,” it read, in teaching children the alphabet, using Adam as an example of the letter A.
“Thy life to mend, this Book attend,” it continued for the letter B, referring to the Scriptures. “My Book and heart shall never part.”
“Christ crucified, for sinners died,” read the letter C.
Schools have increasingly become more secular in recent years, and many court cases have been fought over the issue.
Congress has opened with prayer since the first Continental Congress in 1774.