Jan 03, 2013

Remember Emily Litella?

Gilda Radner’s hilarious “Saturday Night Live” character was always launching into screeds based on a simple misunderstanding. When informed of her errors, Miss Litella would look into the camera and sheepishly mumble, “Never mind.”

A church in North Carolina just had its own Emily Litella moment.

According to the Jacksonville Daily News, members of the Baysden Chapel Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church trooped down to the Onslow County School Board building in Jacksonville, N.C., this week to demand that students be allowed to pray.

The rally at the school office on Wednesday followed a similar event at the Onslow County Courthouse on Monday.

“We want to put prayer back into our schools and put God back where he belongs,” said David Jarman, pastor of the Richlands congregation.

Church member Linwood Whaley was just as worked up.

“Why is God on the outside of our schools having to look in when he’s always been inside of it?” Whaley blustered. “We got so many kids in school that want to say prayer, and because one person does not want to, they can’t pray. That’s wrong. We’re being discriminated as Christians, and it’s time Christians took a stand.”

But Onslow County school officials said there’s one big problem with the church’s protest. Students can already pray in school, as long as they do so voluntarily and on their own time. There’s a one-minute moment of silence to kick off the school day during which kids are free to pray. And state law and the Constitution allow students to pray at other times as long as they aren’t disrupting school or interfering with the rights of their classmates.

Contrary to popular misunderstanding, the U.S. Supreme Court never “banned prayer in public school.” Instead, the justices forbade politicians and school officials to tell students when, where or how to pray (or whether to pray at all). Instruction about religion is the task of parents, not government officials.

When protestors learned of the policies in place in Onslow County, the Daily News reports, they were a bit sheepish.

Pastor Jarman called the rallies a “big misunderstanding.”

“We were told the kids couldn't pray,” he said. “We just [want] to make sure now that everybody knows they can pray in school.”

Jarman said church members would hold off on any more rallies until they “see how things pan out.”

In other words, “Never mind!”

Somewhere Emily Litella is smiling.