Obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law

September 3, 2011 in Question of the Week, Spotlight Answers, What’s your view of public prayer at public school events? by Bob McBride

What’s your view of public prayer at public school and other government sponsored or funded or organized events? What should and should not be allowed and why?

One of the tenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that “we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Articles of Faith). To this end, if the Supreme Court has ruled it unlawful for citizens of the United States to be led in prayer at public school sanctioned events, then we should obey that law. When laws conflict with our personal beliefs, we should work through peaceful and legal means to engage lawmakers to make appropriate changes to that law. For faith based individuals and families, there is not an overriding need to pray publicly in our government funded schools. Parents teach their children from birth the value and importance of personal prayer; it is the means for us to communicate with God and to receive our own personal revelation. Daily family prayer is also vital for strengthening families against the many temptations of the world. Prayer is an extremely important part of our lives and should be guarded and protected as part of our own personal and private worship whether in our homes, houses of worship or private organizations; we don’t necessarily need to pray publicly in venues that are government funded.

Latter-day Saints also “claim the privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of our own conscience and we believe it is important to allow all men the same privilege, offering them the opportunity to worship how, where, or what they may” (ibid). This open invitation of freedom of worship would apply as long as it is not infringing on another’s rights. While our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we are allowed both freedom of religion and freedom from religion; one group cannot inflict their desires on someone else who does not wish to be subjected to that particular belief.

This past February, my wife and I had the opportunity of visiting the Holy Land with a tour group. While in Jerusalem on a Friday, we heard sirens blare when it was the Muslim prayer time. Then, at the appropriate hour, several times during the day, a Muslim prayer was offered over the city wide speaker system for all to hear. While I admittedly don’t understand the custom of this public prayer; I contemplated how Jews, Christians, and Agnostics seeking to live together in this magnificent city felt as they were subjected to this public prayer. While extremely important to those of the Muslim faith, it could be viewed as an annoyance by those who do not share their beliefs. Tolerance and love for our fellowman is vital and we can exhibit such without compromising our faith.