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Miss. governor advocates school prayer in speech to teens

By The Associated Press

This article was published May 30, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.

— First-term Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant told a group of teenagers that he believes it should be possible for public schools to have some sort of nondenominational prayer to open the day.

However, the Republican said he’s not prepared to take any legal action to push the issue.

The Hattiesburg American reports Bryant told about 300 high school students at American Legion Boys State on Tuesday that he grew up with prayer in school.

“I don’t think it hurt us at all,” he said. “I think it built our character, and I think it is what we should continue to do.”

Bryant attended public school in Jackson when he was younger and graduated in 1973 from the private McCluer high school.

Speaking to reporters after his Boys State speech, Bryant elaborated on his comments.

“I know it’s difficult when you start talking about denominations and different beliefs, but I think there is a way for us to have a nondenominational opening prayer when the opportunity is available to let people know there is a God,” said Bryant, who is Methodist. “Those children should know that he does care about them, particularly within their classroom.”

Bryant said he was not prepared to take any action to legalize school prayer in Mississippi, but he envisioned a time when school prayer would be common.

“Certainly, I think at some point at a moment of enlightenment in the future, the federal government and perhaps a future Supreme Court is going to say it’s not a bad thing for children to hear prayer in school,” he said.

Delegates at Boys State spend a week learning how government works. Some said they agreed with Bryant on school prayer, while others disagreed.

“I think religion brings morality to people, but not everybody worships the same person,” said Austin Heath, 16, from Petal High School. “All prayers publicly should be non-denominational to prevent people from being offended.”

Philip McLendon, 16, from Perry Central High School, agreed with the governor.

“I feel our government was built on religious grounds and that even if everyone has different religious beliefs, we should still keep that atmosphere in government because we have lost it in today’s society,” McLendon said.

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Reason says... May 30, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.

In Spain, the catholic church is very much a part of the government. For 50 years, mothers were told that their baby died at birth. The church and government colluded and sold up to 300,000 babies. Mothers are now searching for their own child that they thought was dead.
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Hard to imagine! Beware! Keep them separate!
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dailymail. co. uk/news/article-2049647/BBC-documentary-exposes-50-year-scandal-baby-trafficking-Catholic-church-Spain. html

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rural01 says... May 30, 2012 at 11:50 a.m.

In America, there is a separation of church and state. So far, Mississippi is one of the states in the United States of America. Unless it wants to become its own country, it should abandon this foolhardy notion!

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mattycamp says... May 30, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.

"Nondenominational"? So the Governor and the two quoted students want a prayer that is broad enough to encompass non-Christian religions as well? Somehow, I think not.

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23cal says... May 30, 2012 at 12:17 p.m.

"I think there is a way for us to have a nondenominational opening prayer when the opportunity is available to let people know there is a God,”

This is clearly unconstitutional. Many people do not believe there is a god, and it isn't up to the state through the schools to make these individuals listen to prayers. This issue was settled in 1962 in Engel v. Vitale.
As Justice Hugo Black pointed out in the 6-1 opinion, "We think that the constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people as a part of a religious program carried on by government. When the power, prestige, and financial support of the government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain."
In a concurring opinion, Justice William O. Douglas explained why this should not be construed as hostile to religion. "The First Amendment leaves the Government in a position not of hostility to religion but of neutrality, The philosophy is that the atheist or agnostic--the non-believer--is entitled to go his own way. The philosophy is that if government interferes in matters spiritual, it will be a divisive force."
Let's all recognize the elephant in the room that Governor Bryant wants to ignore: students currently have the right to pray and read their bible in school if they feel so led. They have the right to form religious clubs and use school facilities on the same basis as any other club. Bryant wants to force religion onto those who have no interest in it. He wants this as means of cheap political pandering to theocrats.

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rainbowharold55 says... May 30, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.

“Those children should know that HE does care about them, particularly within their classroom.” So much for lack of bias. God uses male pronouns?

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NickieD says... May 30, 2012 at 6:14 p.m.

rainbow; by HE, do you mean the Governor Of Miss?
This is always the plan of all religions/cults, indoctrinate the youth. How can any prayer to a myrid of Space Beings be nondenominational? Would they include Zeus and the Cosmic Muffin in their prayers? Would they call out to the Power of Greyskull (one of my personal favorites) or Oden in their nondenominational groveling? Could it include animal sacrifice, so many other religions like that, you know.
After years of working to exclude superstitious nonsense from schools, the Republicans are working diligently to dumb down our schools and curriculums with this kind of preposterous religious nonsense such as Creationism and once again nondenominational prayer. This has been done before and proved to be a waste of educational time and tax payer money.
Why can't parents of those unfortunates, unlucky enough to have parents under the spell of the supernatural, say a spell or incantation over their child before they leave for school? Why must these Republican idiots force every child to sit through a nondenominational conjuration every day?
Ultimately, using the same technic the Republicans favor, there must be a plan, then a draft of said "prayer" to make sure that it is in fact 'nondenominational' and then it should go to a committee to be studied, where it will hopefully die a slow death by neglect.
Religion in Government has ALWAYS proved to be a very bad idea. There is not one historical example of a religious government being anything except oppressive.

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anonymously says... May 30, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.

You can pray anywhere, anytime you want to.

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