Wednesday morning, Christian school children across the country will make a very public exhibition of their faith, an exhibition some of their non-Christian peers may find disturbing, if not intimidating.
Wednesday, public schools across the country will be the site of a religious ritual glorifying Christ, and very publicly dividing the school into Christians and non-Christians. The ritual, known as “See You at the Pole,” is a controversial “student led” prayer rally set for the fourth Wednesday of September.
According to the See You at the Pole website:
See You at the Pole, the global day of student prayer, began in 1990 as a grass roots movement with ten students praying at their school. Twenty years later, millions pray on their campuses on the fourth Wednesday in September.
See You at the Pole is simply a prayer rally where students meet at the school flagpole before school to lift up their friends, families, teachers, school, and nation to God. See You at the Pole is a student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led event.
For many secular Americans, the event represents an insidious effort by some Christian parents to force their religion into the public schools. And while sponsors claim that the event is “student led,” the evidence is quite to the contrary.
Critics claim the event is a calculated political tactic used by the religious right to force prayer into the public school environment. “See You at the Pole” is carefully crafted to skirt constitutional protections by claiming it is a “student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led event.”
Yet the claim that See You at the Pole is a “student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led event” rings false. One need only look at the long list of supporting ministries and the slick websiteto realize there is nothing “student initiated” or “student led” or “student organized” about the event.
20 years ago See You at the Pole may have been a student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led event, but in 2011 it is an event sponsored and promoted by very adult, right wing, conservative Christian interests.
Injecting Christian prayer into the public school environment is inappropriate and insensitive. For some zealous students, See You at the Pole may serve as a tacit invitation to aggressive proselytizing, harassment and even the bullying of non-Christian students.
Ultimately, the event is deeply problematic, and antithetical to a secular society and true American values. School children are being used as pawns to fight a culture war for Christian extremists. Organized prayer belongs in church and in the home; it does not belong in the public school environment.