As a not particularly religious Jew, I have always leaned toward the cautious side when it comes to prayer in public/government facilities. But my caution is against government requiring or imposing prayer on people who do, or even worse who must, be at that particular place at that particular time.
Government establishment of religion is one thing, and it must not be permitted. Government prevention of the free expression of someone’s faith, even if in a public place, cannot be tolerated.
And thus I was very happy to see that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an outrageous ruling by a lower court which would have prevented Angela Hildenbrand, the valedictorian of her high school, from saying “God” or encouraging the audience to join her in prayer.
Somewhat sickening to me — and I say this as an atheist — is that the suit was filed on behalf of another student who was alleging that the school was thus compelling government-sponsored prayer.
More sickening to me was that a judge would issue an injuction saying that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits. In other words, this judge decided to trump Ms. Hildenbrand First Amendment rights based on the idea that a graduating student speaking in her own words was effectively an agent of the government illegally forcing religion on the audience.
I am not offended when religious people express their own faith — as long as their faith doesn’t require my conversion or my death. When has America become so hyper-sensitive about religion that we can’t hear a high school student tell us what she values in her own life?
It’s one thing to object to government establishing religion. It’s another thing entirely — and just as objectionable — for government to forbid it.