[8/25/97]


Religious Freedom Upheld

Contrary to popular belief, the 1962 Supreme Court ruling on School Prayer did not remove prayer from our nation's public schools.  Neither did the recent decision against the North Pontotoc Attendance Center remove prayer from the County School.  Both decisions did affirm that the authorities of public schools may not propagate an administratively initiated endorsement or sponsorship of religious activities in a public school.

As a citizen of the United States, my freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom to select a religion of my choosing are protected by the U.S. Constitution, or Constitutional amendments, or by subsequent court decisions.  However, it must be noted that my freedom, in the strictest sense, is limited.  My freedoms and rights end where another's freedoms and rights begin.  The rights of a minority, regardless of how few their numbers may be, must never be trampled by tyranny of the majority.  Herein lies the strength of our nation, and herein lies the intent of the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  We are a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-socio-economic country.  Mutual respect for the rights and privileges of our fellow man are prerequisite to our being one nation.

The leadership of the North Pontotoc Attendance Center chose the path of least resistance, the path of political expediency, and acquiesced to the principle of majority rule at the expense of the rights of a small minority. North Pontotoc leaders were in violation of the law, providing a platform for a specific religion, namely Christianity, by allowing the school intercom system to be used daily by students giving devotional messages and verbalizing prayers.  When confronted by a minority, and reminded of their flagrant civil disobedience, North Pontotoc leaders elected to continue to be in violation of the law.  Their decision required adjudication to rectify their wrongdoing.

It should be duly noted that Pontotoc County Schools are now legally permitted to have a period of corporate devotion and prayer.  That permission is limited, limited to a time prior to the official start of school classes each day. Is that satisfactory to the majority? Probably not, but it does not tread on the rights of the minority, rather the religious freedom of the minority is upheld.

It is ironic the Christian community of Pontotoc County could not walk its talk.  New Testament writers admonished the followers of Christ to be good citizens, to obey the laws of the land, and to respect authority.  Jesus, who challenged followers to be as salt and as light, demonstrated the principle of separation of Church and State, in his declaration concerning the payment of taxes to Rome.  Did he not say, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."

The Christian community of Pontotoc County has failed to demonstrate a spirit of love and compassion for the minority, toleration of religious differences, and respect for the law regarding School Prayer.  In time, healing will come, hard feelings will be forgotten, and a paragraph of America's history may one day note that justice prevailed in Herdahl vs. North Pontotoc Attendance Center.

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