Fired bus driver wrong to claim a right to pray Stella...


March 24, 2002

Fired bus driver wrong to claim a right to pray

Stella Tsourakis and her Alliance Defense Fund attorney have it wrong ("Driver suing school officials," March 12). Ms. Tsourakis and the parents of six students who have filed a federal lawsuit did not have their constitutional rights violated when they were forbidden to pray openly on a county school bus. It was they who violated the constitutional rights of the other students on the bus. They cannot assert a right to pray openly on a public school bus when no such constitutional right exists.

The Alliance Defense Fund, whose prime objective is to "spread the Gospel in America," has once again elected to initiate a lawsuit that has absolutely no merit and serves only to provide them with a public forum in which to further their agenda. Contrary to what the Constitution outlines, and what has been supported by the Supreme Court in numerous decisions, the Alliance Defense Fund aspires for "laws based on biblical morality" and the presence of the "Body of Christ in the American legal system." Anyone who has even a remote understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights knows this to be the exact position that the framers of the Constitution sought to avoid.

The Supreme Court, over and over, has declared government-fostered prayers unconstitutional. This means prayers that are led, required, sanctioned or suggested by an official are unconstitutional. What Ms. Tsourakis did, no matter what her intention, was violate the right of every student on every bus when she not only led the students in reciting the Lord's Prayer, but posted the words so that the students who didn't know it could pray along. When a school official encourages and promotes prayer, the government interprets this as coercion; plain and simple.

These "faithful Christians" as the plaintiffs are described in the lawsuit, are dead wrong in their assertion that "prayer is often and properly a communal experience and is to be shared with others [Christians and non-Christians] at every opportunity" somehow construing that this stance is provided to them by First Amendment rights. What about the rights of non-Christians who feel uncomfortable in the midst of such proselytizing? Christianity is only one religion in this country. For many citizens, Christianity and its prayers are meaningless; perhaps offensive when thrust upon them unsolicited. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Supreme Court rulings have declared and upheld the intentions of our founding fathers and of the framers of the Constitution; it is not complicated nor can it be intelligently debated. Public schools, funded by all taxpayers of all religions, should be free of all religious observances. Religion is private; schools are public. Some believe in the power of prayers, others do not. This diversity is protected by the Constitution. No citizen should be subjected to having to participate or listen to prayers that may or may not have meaning for that person, least of all public middle-schoolers on a bus who are literally a captive audience and are provided with no choice to decline involvement.

The arrogance of the Alliance Defense Fund and other self-righteous Christian civil rights groups who so sanctimoniously believe that their religious convictions should be incorporated in any aspect of legislature in this country is nothing short of bizarre.

Mary M. Davis


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