Louisiana Legislator Wants Lord’s Prayer in Public Schools

I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson, but are you for real?

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Not content to let House Republicans monopolize unconstitutional legislation, Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) recently filed HB 660, which she’d like to be known as “The Parental Choice Historical Prayer and Pledge Act.”

If passed, Jackson’s bill would allow and encourage public schools to begin each school day with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, it’d mandate BESE to establish a Lord’s Prayer policy. Quoting:

A. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or “state board”, shall establish a policy and develop procedures to allow public school students to participate in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” at the commencement of each school day. Such policy and procedures shall include but not be limited to provisions for the following:

(1) Student participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge shall be voluntary.

(2) Students shall be reminded that the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom.

(3) Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.

(4) The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America’s great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

B. The state board shall develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. As beautiful and meaningful as the Lord’s Prayer may be to millions of Christians all over the world, the suggestion that its recitation symbolizes “freedom of religion” is a gross distortion and manipulation of American history; it’s shameless. The recitation of Lord’s Prayer is definitively, self-evidently a religious ritual, and while the pilgrims from the Mayflower may be an important part of early colonial American history, the United States of America wasn’t founded by “pilgrim fathers.” Apparently, Representative Jackson not only doesn’t understand the Constitution, she also never properly learned American history. But, to her, I suppose, that’s no problem; she can just ensure the state rewrites history: “The state board shall develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers.”

Fundamentally, the bill is defiantly unconstitutional. If passed, it’d violate more than 50 years of established United States Supreme Court precedent. That’s worth emphasizing: Fifty years. Usually, when a lawmaker is forced to defend of explain this type of blatantly unconstitutional legislation, they wax philosophical about the destructive forces of secularization in America. “School prayer is under attack,” they say. And so, they introduce legislation like this, because, they say, they’re compelled to act with fierce urgency. At least that’s the typical excuse, but I wouldn’t presume to understand what, if anything, Representative Jackson is thinking.

But I do know this. She didn’t write this bill. This is not her original work, not even her original idea. She filed it on someone else’s behalf, and more than likely, there’s campaign money involved here. Indeed, there’s an almost identically-worded bill being considered right now in Indiana, which was itself modeled after a bill from Kentucky. She’s clearly doing someone else’s bidding, though I doubt she’d see it that way. Quoting from her campaign biography:

Ms. Jackson attributes her accomplishments to not just having a dream, but having a dream that lines up with God’s plan for her life.  She believes her footsteps are ordered by God and everyday Ms. Jackson works to allow God to guide her in the process of realizing her dream. Her family worships at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe, LA.

There’s really nothing quite like a politician who claims their “footsteps are ordered by God.” It’s the ultimate defense against bad government and stupid policies. Incidentally, it’s the same logic the pilgrims used when they landed on Plymouth Rock. Quoting from the U.S. Department of Defense (bold mine):

In December, a scouting party went ashore, and tradition says they first set foot upon the stone known today as “Plymouth Rock.” This may or may not be true, but the rock is so large that they probably at least used it as a landmark when rowing ashore.

The men in this first group ashore feared a possible confrontation with unfriendly Indians, but soon they discovered the local Indians were all dead of smallpox. They took this as divine providence and assumed God had cleared their way by killing off the natives.