End of forced prayer in schools led to mass shootings

Reading time: 4 minutes

During a recent broadcast of the show Breaking pointtelevangelist Kenneth Copeland told host Greg Stephens that the school shootings occurring in the United States can be entirely blamed on the 1963 Supreme Court decision that removed mandatory Christian prayer from public schools.

COPELAND: … The devil has missions. If you want to know what’s going on in the schools, go back to the schools…

STEPHENS: Okay, so when was the devil given a geographical mission to kill children in schools?

COPELAND: The devil used an atheist woman. One who had a son. A possessed woman named Madalyn [Murray] O’Hair. And her son and the people in the Supreme Court who didn’t have… what it took to stand up against her. And because of this woman, today we don’t have Bibles in school. We can no longer pray in schools. The devil used that woman to open–to cripple our schools and open the doors of the schools. And now the devil gets in there and kills the children in the schools.

I didn’t realize there was a worse response to school shootings than “thoughts and prayers,” but there you go.

Everything Copeland just said is pure bullshit, but because this particular right-wing talking point is repeated all the time, it’s worth pointing out the obvious errors.

Copeland refers to Abington School District v. Schemppthe 1963 Supreme Court decision that ended school sponsored Bible readings in public schools. “School-sponsored” is an important distinction to make, as it simply means that Christianity cannot be treated as a school’s official religion. Which makes sense because people of all denominations and no denominations go to public school, and it’s absurd to claim that Christianity represents Everybody.

It also means that students who want to read the Bible at school in their free time are perfectly free to do so. And teachers who want to pray to Jesus in their spare time are perfectly free to do so. And teachers who want to reference the Bible for academic reasons, like dissecting a verse for an English class or discussing how the Garden of Eden is referenced in classic literature, won’t be considered. ‘a trial. Hell, they can even teach the Bible as literature as long as it’s done objectively.

On the other hand, it’s also not as if atheism is the official religion of public schools. No teacher requires children to say, “There is no God!” god is not dead is not a documentary.

Later in the segment, Stephens even suggests that the teaching of evolution is to blame for the violence because one shooter in particular was wearing a shirt that read “Natural Selection” on it. But as anyone who really understands evolution can tell you, “survival of the fittest” is not a justification for anything, let alone murder; it’s a explanation. It’s a description. To pretend otherwise is to admit that you don’t understand the theory. The expression is not even a Darwinian original.

Anyway, no one has ever stopped Christians from praying in school, just as no one has banned the Bible there. Conservatives who claim otherwise are either very ignorant or they are lying to you.

In the case of Kenneth Copeland, it may be both.

Blaming that 1963 ruling for the problem of school shootings makes as much sense as blaming the Civil Rights Act. Which I’m sure the Conservatives would love to do if they thought they could get away with this.

The accusation doesn’t even make sense.

There has been no spike in school shootings decades following these Supreme Court decisions. It wasn’t until Columbine, really, that we started seeing these horrific mass shootings by kids who just wanted to unleash their rage and had access to guns to make it happen. This was in 1999, by the way, more than three decades after the prayer decision.

There’s no reason to believe that the lack of forced prayer in school — or, while we’re at it, mental illness, video games, or social media — should be blamed for a uniquely American problem. Other nations did not force Christianity in school. They also struggle with mental illness and have access to games and websites and yet mass shootings in these countries are incredibly rare. The common denominator of all the massacres we see in our country is the weapon. (Often, the same kind.) Moreover, even places invaded by prayer, such as churches, are not immune to armed violence.

Want to reduce mass fire? Put more obstacles in the way of gun owners. Especially people who want guns that can kill multiple people in seconds. Raise the legal age to own one. Put owners through a certain amount of training. Register guns like we register cars. There are many other possible answers to the problem, but the Conservatives are determined to fight Each of them because they like semi-automatic weapons more than children. Dead children are a price Republicans will gladly pay to continue their violent pastimes. The NRA always takes precedence over the PTA.

Forcing children to worship the same God as Kenneth Copeland won’t solve anything. On the contrary, it will only create new problems. Telling non-Christian students they must bow down to the Christian God, or putting up posters of the Ten Commandments in schools, or forcing schools to post “In God We Trust” like they currently do in Texas, won’t stop not the massacres, because God has nothing to do with the problem.

Elsewhere in the segment, Copeland also blames pornography, transgender people and abortion for societal problems. He’s just clinging to straws.

It’s disgusting, really, to hear Copeland use serious tragedies like school shootings as a way to inject his personal religious views into other people. It is not enough for him to preach nonsense to his supporters; he also wants to put it on children’s faces. Didn’t he do sufficient harm to our society?

(via Right Wing Watch. Portions of this article were published earlier)

Comments are closed.