Announcement that Wallenpaupack Area School District has had to stop the practice of allowing public prayer at graduation has touched a nerve in the community. Numerous comments have been received at The News Eagle, voicing their opinion. Most opposed the decision but not all.
Rev. Greg Shafer, pastor of the Newfoundland Moravian Church, offered the Invocation and Benediction at the June 14, 2013 Commencement.
Upon hearing the news that his might have been the last permitted public prayers at Wallenpaupack's graduation, he questioned the basis for claiming they were "unconstitutional."
"I'd like someone to define 'Church and State' and where it says that in the Constitution," he said.
His biggest concern, Rev. Shafer said, was the reasoning protects the rights of one person who complained, while trampling on the rights of others. "It wasn't a school decision- its was the students' decision [to have an Invocation and Benediction]. It's ridiculous- you're telling the students that their voice doesn't count."
Rev. Che' Weber, paster of the First Assembly of God in Greentown, sent a letter to the editor which appears in this edition. She commented, in part, "Thomas Jefferson purportedly wrote the phrase ['Church and State'] in a letter. The idea stems from protecting religious expression from the control of the government & the king/despots. Yet, this is the thing that is happening!" She urges the School District to reconsider.
In another letter, Beth French asks, "Why is it that my expression of belief in my God, Jesus Christ has to be quieted, not spoken of, not shared or discussed publicly, etc. yet your belief of no gods or many gods is center stage, main topic, pushed, demanded, etc.? All in the name of tolerance or equality yet who is not being tolerant of who?"
Caitlin Marie Mosiniak expressed a different point of view on The News Eagle Facebook page:
"Thank GOODNESS.. when I went to Jessica's graduation, they started a group prayer and I was kind of thrown off. Why is prayer involved (and only one specific religion of prayer) and being recited at a graduation? Sorry, but that doesn't seem to even go together. Whatever faith you practice does not need to be involved at a graduation... And honestly, why would the school want to single people out for whatever religion they worship on a day that we are supposed to be celebrating ALL graduates. like way to cause problems that are completely unnecessary."
The article was posted on Facebook where 473 people looked at it, as of Monday morning.
Other comments received by The News Eagle included:
• "I think it's absolutely awful... prayer should be at graduation and in our schools."- Marie Gumble
•"How rude." - April Porh
•"This is truly sad."- Kelly Alyson Koch
Page 2 of 2 - •"Why, in our democratic country, can one person overrule the majority?"- Dick Teeter
•"There is no constitutional basis for banning it. This is absurd."- Kevin M. Palan
•"I'm not surprised at all. They played TAPS when I was in middle school."- Marcella Macchirole-Turonis
•"These would be cases brought before government bodies who open their yearly sessions with prayers and benedictions. Yet again exempting themselves from what they impose on the rest. hmmm"- Mary Sanders
•"Nobody's stopping folks from holding a baccalaureate service at one of the local churches, that would be perfectly appropriate."- Skip Mendler
•"Signs of the times, like it or not everything public has to conform to political and religious, sexual, racial hypersensitivity. Sad scenario across the board from my perspective." - Jeffrey Vagell
•"Another example of how this country is 'going to hell in a hand basket'."- Ben Tucker
•[Concerning baccalaureate] ". . . According to the article the school is supporting the wishes of the students and not the practice of religion, and those who object are not required to attend. It would be different TO ME if the school mandated it over student objections. The amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I don't see how this ruling honors the first part, but I do see how it achieves the second."- Kevin M. Palan
•"Nobody is saying that students can't go home and pray to whatever religion they believe in. I think this is fair. Either you have no religious practices at school or you have to have something for everybody... whether they are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Taoist, or atheist. What's fair is fair..."- Michelle Gregory
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a corrected version, correcting the comment left by Kevin Palan which had a few words accidentally left off.]