Prayer in Manitoba’s Public Schools: Here to learn, except when you’re not

Cross-posted from Subspecies

The Free Press (why do I read the paper?) is reporting that numerous schools in Manitoba still have students recite the Lord’s Prayer. This makes me especially sad as many of the schools listed are ones that myself or my brother have attended. I have no recollection of this, to be honest, with the exception of at J.A. Cuddy in Sanford. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t always been the case, but I’m sincerely confused because I attended Oak Bluff for a few years, and don’t ever remember doing it. Perhaps it blended so seamlessly into my expectations that I never thought it notable enough to remember.

In any case, everyone knows the entertainment in news stories comes from the comments. There are plenty of people spewing venom at this devious, atheist lawyer who is asking the schools to respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are a few main themes for this objection:

Kids today are worse than they used to be! This is because they took prayer out of schools! Umm, I’m pretty sure the point of this article is that prayer is still in schools even though it’s not supposed to be. Most likely, you have a nostalgia bias, and remember things better than they were, and any real decline in good behaviour at school is due to other factors.
This country was built on Christian values! WTF, really? First of all, the argument from tradition is one of the worst fallacies. Second of all, this country has committed numerous atrocities based on those same Christian values. Xenophobia, racism and superiority lead to residential schools, Japanese internment camps, anti-Semitism, lack of women’s rights, etc. If those are the sort of values you think we should value and that Christianity promotes, you freaking suck, and Christianity sucks harder.
If you don’t like it, you should go to a country that doesn’t believe in God. Um no, first of all, a country cannot believe in God, only its people can. Furthermore, this particular country enforces the freedom of religious belief, INCLUDING atheism, agnosticism, and all other religions. There are very specific rules for how religion can enter public schools, and it is not allowed to be on school time. If you would prefer a country that does enforce such things, as pointed out by another commenter, I hear Iran is really nice for religious fundamentalism this type of year.
The Lord’s Prayer says nice things that all children should hear, regardless of their religion. First of all, no it doesn’t say anything that is worth saying. Talking about heaven on earth and being forgiven are explicitly Christian sentiments which are not universal. As for the bits about not doing or suffering from evil, isn’t that a given? Why do we need to teach our children, using religious doctrine, not to do evil? Do we need them to pray to an invisible man when someone has done wrong to them, or should we be encouraging them to actually do something about it?
“Who is Chris Tait? Who is he to dictate to others that they can’t pray in school? So schools are [sic] suppose to drop the Lord’s Prayer because some atheist lawyer says so?” No, schools are not supposed to use the Lord’s Prayer because our CHARTER says so. It is the law, the lawyer is reminding them of it!
“Heaven forbid, no pun intended, that the kids of today start their day being thankful, by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s not have them learn about empathy either. However, if a dissident from an obscure tribe wanted part of their ritual ackowledged or believes read that would be ok, right.” Honestly, I don’t read any part of being thankful in there. I hear praise to God, which is quite different than, golly gee whiz, I’m sure thankful I am a Canadian kid who has rights and laws protecting me like freedom of speech and education! Furthermore, the law is quite clear, it doesn’t matter who you are, you are not allowed to promote religion in school. True, we do teach kids about Native history (grade 6, I think) but I also distinctly remember learning about the Reformation during European History in grade 7. It’s okay to learn about such things for the purposes of knowledge. Just because we made bannock in grade 5 doesn’t mean that the school division is promoting being a Voyageur! There is a difference between knowledge and promotion.
If we don’t allow God in our schools, where will he be when things go wrong? We do not need God to deal with our problems. We deal with problems. If someone is about to be raped, are you going to stand there and let God intervene, or are you going to call the cops?
A Christian agenda teaches love and forgiveness! No, a Christian agenda is a Christian agenda, and as such you cannot teach it in public schools. What is so difficult about this? Can someone seriously argue with me that you cannot teach someone what love is without talking about God? That it is impossible to forgive someone for a wrong without them pleading their case before a man in the sky first? Seriously?
Why don’t people deal with more important issues? This is irrelevant! While it may be true that there are serious issues that require attention, that doesn’t negate the fact that the law is being broken. Should we ignore drunk drivers because there’s a serial rapist? Should all the police in the city work in the North End, because it has some major crime issues, and ignore the rest? Just because X is not as popular as Y doesn’t mean it deserves to be ignored. A similar issue is happening in research. A lot of women get breast cancer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need money for Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s.
This is an atheist deception! What? How? What? Saying atheists are deceiving you, and then listing a bunch of bad things that happen (including in schools that have 100% compliance with the prayer!) is not an argument, it’s a non sequitir.
Children in schools have to hear pro-choice, pro-homosexuality and pro-evoution lectures! This is infringing on our religious freedoms just as much!! No, the charter guarantees that everyone will be treated equally and fairly. Imposing your religious beliefs on everyone is very different than being provided with information that disagrees with your bigoted religious beliefs. The Charter does not protect your right to be an asshole.

Sorry, WFP commenters. If fallacies and false equivalences are all you’ve got for me, I remain unconvinced. Kids go to school to learn information and to learn how to think critically. They spend all day saying, here kids, figure this out! Then they say, okay, now shut off your minds, and talk out loud to a man in the sky. It’s not learning, it’s brainwashing. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s your kid, that’s your own choice, but if you want to brainwash for Jesus, there are plenty of schools that are more than willing to oblige you.

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7 thoughts on “Prayer in Manitoba’s Public Schools: Here to learn, except when you’re not

  1. Disclaimer: I am replying after having read precisely two sentences of this post. I’ll update my reply after reading the rest.

    When I went to elementary school, my school did prayer. But they did it in what I feel is a fair way. We did the opening announcements with O Canada, then anyone who wanted to say the lord’s prayer went into the hallways, and they did it. I can’t remember if they were led by teachers, or others, or self organized, or what have you. Additionally, you needed to sign a permission slip to allow your kids to do it. But, it certainly wasn’t advocated. Hell, I vividly remember not wanting to do it, because I felt like it singled me out as some minority in the class.

    Again, maybe things are different elsewhere, and maybe I’ll have more to say when I’m done reading this. But, in summary: my elementary school did the Lord’s prayer and I do not feel they did it in an inappropriate fashion

    1. FOLLOWUP: Well I read the first three sentences of the WFP article and I’m already shocked. My primary school was one of the most Mennonite (public) schools in town, and they would’ve never done it over the intercom.

    2. It sounds like your school was following the rules pretty much entirely, although it isn’t supposed to take away from instructional classroom time. Realistically, the time spent on the Lord’s Prayer is minimal so I doubt anyone would miss much education during the few moments in the hallway.

  2. Actually, the charter largely does protect our choice to display our assholery by expressing our assholish ideas. It just doesn’t protect the choice to enact our assholish ideas on everyone around us. Nor does it make our school a wide open political battleground where everyone gets a dig in. Why the hell should it? They would accuse everyone but themselves of standing for nothing, but it’s precisely because they DO stand for something that they seem to take issue with it.

    Like it or not, we have to admit that some values are accepted and other are rejected in our schools and some of these have political connotations to them. However, I think the goal behind it is to promote values that affirm the acceptability of everyone in attendance and reject values that denigrate and exclude. Values. Not religions, other bodies of doctrine, mass political agendas or traditional sets of values, but individual values on their own merits or lack thereof.

    They may or may not be perfect, but I’d rather see these people join the process instead of trying to piggy back ALL their values into the arena simply because they got their toe in the door with their choice of religion. This is biting the hand that gave you the olive branch (if I may mix metaphors).THIS to me is what having an ulterior agenda, and being deceiving is really all about. It’s also the oppressive crying “oppression!”

    That’s my 2c.

    1. I completely agree with your last statement. Another comment which has sprung up is that 80% of Canadians self-identify as Christian, as if this is justification for infringing on the religious freedom of 20%. “Who are you to come into my country and tell me what to do?” they cry, failing to grasp that people such as myself are likely more “Canadian” (in their narrow-minded definition of the word) than they are. Fun fact: My great-great-great grandfather was one of the original RCMP officers who rode West from Ontario. The other side are Canadian farmers back 5 generations. Does this mean I get to tell the presumptuous xenophobes to get out of my country? At one time, I bought into the concept of reverse discrimination, since at its core, it seems plausible. What I now realize is that it really is just an excuse to go on discriminating.

      Also, I agree, the Charter protects our ability to say things that are asshole-ish, but ultimately, it prevents us from doing asshole-ish things. That whole “my rights end where your rights begin” deal. I suppose that should be the caveat to my statement – you can be an asshole, you just can’t act on being an asshole. Unfortunately, caveats rarely have the dramatic effect necessary to end a paragraph, ha ha.

      An “equal time” suggestion was also bandied around in the comments, to expose kids to other cultures (because religion defines people’s culture, of course) and be “fair.” This is equally insulting because the solution ends up being so that no one is happy. The devout are forced to blaspheme, the ambivalent are confused and learn to separate people by their religion, and the unwilling are forced to pray to every God there is instead of just the Christian one. This is, of course, completely ignoring the fact that there are an infinite number of possible Gods to pray to. Hinduism has thousands alone! Not to mention that religious types would likely be unhappy with their children being introduced to other gods as different but equal. The inevitable question would follow, “How do we know Jesus is the true God?” What is stopping parents from saying a prayer with their kid while they wait for the bus or on the way to school? The simplest solution here, where nobody gets hurt and nobody is offended, is to simply not do it in school. I guess that’s why it’s the freaking law.

  3. She beats me to the punch all the time!

    Prayer in public funded schools has no place. Keep it in the church!

    An Interesting bit of information was thrown around above. It was said that 80% of Canadians identify as Christian. I find this hard to believe as a recent survey as in 2001 only 73% of Canadians said they are a denomination of Christianity (http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/demo30a-eng.htm). “That’s only 7%” you say? 7% of 29.6 million people is only 2.07 million. A mere drop in the hat huh?

    This page (http://www40.statcan.gc.ca/l01/cst01/demo03-eng.htm?sdi=immigration) suggested born in Canada Canadians could be on their way to becoming a minority in this country. While in the last 10 years immigration has risen, the birth rate has dropped off. Now that is interesting.

    Another interesting fact from 2001 is 27% of Canadians polled are not Christian. I think this number is very different now, 10 years later.

    In 2001 16% of Canadians are identified as Atheist. I wonder how many there are of us now.

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