Role of Religion in Schools, Society

In response to "High School Moves Baccalaureate After Students Protest Prayer Ban," June 12; and "Biblical Passages in School's Yearbook Lead to Suspension," June 13:

It seems incredible that in 1991, 29 years after the Supreme Court held that there were to be no prayers in public schools, the education system (in this state) has not included as part of the course of study why the court ruled as it did, rather than have the acrimony that accompanies the subject at this time of year. Is it ignorance or arrogance?

In the first case, assuming the graduating seniors have had a course in government, there is nothing wrong with prayers in any place at any time, as long as they are not in effect sponsored by a government agency, of which a school district is one! Why? Because whose prayers will the school district sponsor? Christian? Jewish? Hindu? Buddhist? Government sponsorship of one religion, historically, leads to discrimination against other religions.

In the second case, there are many students in Buena Park who may not share Phillip Fivgas' zeal for Christian Scripture. Even though his intent may be pristine, none of the school administrators have the authority to sanction Christian prayers in a school yearbook. As in the first example, Fivgas should have known his conduct was not permissible. His comments, "The kids are being denied something that belongs to them. These kids are getting a raw deal," merely express his personal opinion, and presuppose that all of his students share his beliefs. By asserting his personal religious beliefs, he has shown no respect for the unexpressed feelings or beliefs of his individual students.

These are but two examples of how the Legislature has failed our school system, by grossly under-financing education, thus perpetuating high school graduates improperly equipped to cope with our complex society.

STUART A. RIDDLE, San Gabriel

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