Rabbi Jacob Neusner is correct when he writes in “Letter From Inner Israel: State-Sponsored Prayer” (April 1996): “Constitutional issues aside, there are strong theological arguments against legislating prayer for young people.” “We speak each in our own, unique way; we honor the piety and prayer of others; but we do not participate and cannot participate in these prayers, unless we apostatize.”

Ever since Christian News began in 1962, some of our well-meaning Fundamentalist friends have taken issue with us for not supporting the various efforts which come up from time to time to get prayer and Bible-reading into government schools. In 1981, Senator Jesse Helms, a leading advocate of “voluntary” prayers in public schools, was asked during a Senate debate if the “Hail Mary” would be an acceptable prayer for children to recite in a government school. He said that even as a Baptist he would not have any objection if such a prayer were used in government schools and that he would feel the same way if he were a Jew.

The Christian maintains that Christianity is the only true and saving faith and that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by me.” All Christians confess the Athanasian Creed, one of the great ecumenical creeds of Christendom. It begins: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic (i.e., universal, Christian) faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.”

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is one major conservative church body which has taken issue with Fundamentalists who champion prayer and Bible reading in government schools. Already in 1925, Dr. Walter Maier, Old Testament professor of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, a Harvard Ph.D., and founder of the International Lutheran Hour, wrote: “The widespread effort to introduce the Bible into public schools, as well meant as it may be, is un-American because it is against American principles to force a Jewish child to read the New Testament and because it is contrary to our constitution to confuse the duties of the church with the privileges of the state. The whole arrangement which throws the church into politics makes Jesus more of a policeman than a Savior, and seeks to have His church wield the policeman’s club, besides preaching His Gospel. It constitutes a real menace to our national life; for, if successfully carried through, the policy will bring a reversion to the spirit and custom of the days of the Puritans.”

When I attended public schools in the Bronx, New York, almost all of my classmates were jews. Any prayers would have been led by a Jewish teacher and a service at graduation time by a rabbi. Christian children in government schools should not be urged to pray with non-Christians, and non-Christian children should not be urged to pray with Christians in such a school. Christians who are determined to have their children pray in school, can send them to a parochial school if at all possible. Actually, am child can silently pray anytime he wants to in any school.

        —Herman Otten
Editor, Christian News
New Haven, MO