WAXAHACHIE, Texas – A hush fell over the stadium as football players, cheerleaders and band members from both teams made their way to the end zone. Then, although people in the stands could not actually hear it, the students on the Waxahachie High School field recited the Lord’s Prayer.
“If we want to pray, we ought to be able to pray,” said Martha Howell, whose son is a football coach here. “And we sure do need it.”
Since the terrorist attacks, school districts and local governments seem to be blurring, some say crossing, the line between church and state.
Lawmakers have urged Americans to pray, and some students are doing so openly in class. Many schools have had clergy-led assemblies. Some communities have voted to post the Ten Commandments at courthouses.
“I think you’re going to see more Americans not putting up with those secularists trying to make the public square a religion-free zone,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Nashville, Tenn.-based Southern Baptist Convention.
Some groups say such displays violate the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against government establishment of religion.
“The constitutional rights of the religious minority cannot be shoved aside in a time of national crisis,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, based in Washington, D.C. “I hope these efforts to cross constitutional boundaries stop.”
Some worry that the wave of patriotic and religious fervor washing over the country might discourage people from speaking out against such actions.
In fact, last week in Fargo, N.D., a group called the Red River Freethinkers announced it was postponing a campaign to remove a Ten Commandments marker from the City Hall plaza.
“Our pursuit of the monument issue irritates that fraction of the community that equates Christianity and patriotism, that regards un-Christian as un-American,” group secretary Davis Cope wrote in a letter to the newspaper.
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