Chicago, Illinois — A Democratic state representative from Illinois recently told a group of ministers that he believes they need to work to get prayer back in school.
Representative LaShawn Ford made the statement in light of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“I also urge the ministers here to fight to get prayer back in schools. That’s a mission that we need to do,” he said. “We need to make sure that we get prayer back in schools in some form or fashion.”
He said that if prayer is not restored, students should at least be able to have religious symbolism in the classroom.
“[We need] some kind of way that we can have symbols or whatever in the schools, so that students can feel that there is something that they can attach to, so that when they feel weak, they can go to the symbols, whether it’s Jesus Christ or someone that they believe in,” Ford explained.
However, reports state that none of the ministers present supported Ford’s idea. One expressed to the representative that prayer in school is “not a priority” for the preachers.
Official school prayer was first banned in America in 1962 in the Supreme Court decision of Engle v. Vitale, which involved a case out of Hyde Park, New York. Prior to the ruling, students were led in a scripted prayer every morning, which read, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”
“We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause,” the court declared. “It is neither sacrilegious nor anti-religious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance.”
While the Supreme Court outlawed prayers administered or encouraged by school officials, it did not ban voluntary prayer by individual students.
“The [writers of the Constitution] knew that the First Amendment, which tried to put an end to governmental control of religion and of prayer, was not written to destroy either,” it outlined. “They knew, rather, that it was written to quiet well-justified fears which nearly all of them felt arising out of an awareness that governments of the past had shackled men’s tongues to make them speak only the religious thoughts that government wanted them to speak, and to pray only to the God that government wanted them to pray to.”
Representative Ford, who recently made the statements about school prayer, serves the 8th District of Illinois. Controversy is currently surrounding Ford regarding other matters, as he plead not guilty to charges of bank fraud earlier this month. He is facing eight counts of fraud and nine counts of submitting false information for allegedly using a business loan for personal matters.
His defense attorney has called the charges “unfounded.”