WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives has adopted a non-binding resolution encouraging schools to establish a time that students may use, in part, to pray for the country.
The House approved the resolution in a 297-125 vote. The resolution, which has no standing legally, says, “… it is the sense of Congress that schools in the United States should set aside a sufficient period of time to allow children to pray for, or quietly reflect on behalf of, the nation during this time of struggle against the forces of international terrorism.”
While the measure received criticism from some defenders of church-state separation inside and outside Congress, supporters of the resolution said it is consistent with the reactions of the American public and its leaders. The measure cites President Bush’s call for Americans to pray for those who suffered from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Its backers also said the resolution provides for voluntary actions by students.
The resolution “would serve as a message to school-age children throughout the country that we, the members of the United States Congress, understand that they are living in troubled and confusing times,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R.-N.C., when he introduced the resolution in early October. “It would also tell them that while we are working hard to ensure their future safety we are also aware of the immediate need to seek solace through faith or simply a quiet moment of meditation.”
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Johnny Isakson, R.-Ga., said, “While we may have differences on the intent of this legislation, it is patently clear it is permissive, not mandatory; respectful, not dictatorial; and it recognizes that at a time and place of tragedy in our country, it is only appropriate that America’s children have the opportunity in their own way to reflect or to pray.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, however, decried the resolution after its Nov. 15 passage.
“At this time of national crisis, the last thing we need is political bickering over prayer and religion,” said AU Executive Director Barry Lynn in a written release. “This resolution invites divisiveness when we are striving for unity.
“Public school officials should ignore the House’s advice,” Lynn said.
Religious expressions have gained a greater public role since the acts of terrorism, and Congress has been supportive.
The House approved without opposition in mid-October a non-binding resolution encouraging the display of the words “God Bless America” in public schools. Both the Senate and House adopted resolutions authorizing a National Day of Reconciliation to be observed with an event in the Capitol during which members of Congress are invited to join together for prayer, repentance and reconciliation.