Generally speaking, elections are good things. When you need a new mayor, member of Congress, senator, etc., a fair election is the best way to get one.
Making decisions by majority vote is often another nice feature of our political system. When the city council is trying to decide whether to repair sidewalks or replace street lights and doesn't have enough money to do both, a vote will settle the matter.
But some things should not be subject to elections or majority rule – like our religious liberty rights. Certain freedoms are deemed so important that they are put beyond the reach of elections and majority decision. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and other key liberties are among them.
Some people in Louisiana are having problems with this concept. In Ouachita Parish [the Louisiana term for county], school officials are bragging about votes on graduation prayer they engineered among graduating seniors at the parish's high schools.
"Our students want prayer," Richwood Principal Anthony Killian told the Monroe News Star.
At Ouachita Parish High School, guidance counselor Tesa Stewart said, "We are going to pray. We were told to let the students make the decision. They voted and the majority ruled."
Students at Ouachita High told the newspaper that the vote was nearly unanimous and that no one had complained about the result. That's not really a surprise, since people who do speak out are often vilified, ostracized and otherwise have it made known to them that their views are not welcome. High school students, especially, are often not known for their willingness to buck the system. It's usually easier to go along to get along.
That shouldn't be necessary. The Supreme Court has already struck down this "majority-rules" prayer scheme, and it's remarkable that in 2008, some people believe they have the right to vote to impose religious worship on others.
Prayer can certainly be a part of any graduation – but is must be voluntary and chosen by each individual student. There is certainly nothing to stop anyone from saying a silent prayer at any point during the proceedings. It does not have to be blasted from the loudspeaker to be meaningful.
In fact, that type of ostentatious public prayer may be the least meaningful. Remember the words of Jesus from the Book of Matthew: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
The ACLU of Louisiana has repeatedly sued Ouachita Parish school officials for violating the separation of church and state. The ACLU is trying to teach them a lesson about constitutional law. It sounds like the people there could use one on theology as well.