Sc Schools and Prayer/blessing Before Lunch

Updated on October 02, 2012
J.A. asks from Spartanburg, SC
35 answers

My oldest is in K at a public school. She told me this week her class says the "God is great, God is good" prayer everyday before lunch. She said a child is picked (I don't know if the teacher picks, or the class) everyday to "lead" the prayer but if they need help, the teacher will help them say it. I honestly haven't had a chance to get the details I want from my child, and I plan on asking the teacher how it works and why it is part of the daily routine at the next parent/teacher conference. I am asking mamapedia what your experiences are with prayer in public schools? Does anyone know of a good website to access or where I should look/contact about finding what exactly is legal in my state? Thanks!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I assume the teacher has been raised to say this. We always do in child care so I don't have any problems with it. You do?

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I 'bless my food' as we call it here in the South before eating. My students see me do it. I would not hide nor promote it to them--but the fact that I do it--models that I am thankful to SOME HIGHER being for the food. The teacher should save her/himself from the inevitable parent who will have a problem with it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

South Carolina has had a lot of issues with this subject ... it appears that it is okay, but by student's choice.

I would say something - I do NOT find it acceptable and would say something and do something about it. I did something about it in my school when I was in high school regarding religion in the classroom and I was heard and respected for it. Good Luck.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Charlotte on

Don't let anyone give you a hard time because you don't like this. I am a Christian and would have been pleased as punch for my kids to say "God is great etc" before lunch, but being an AMERICAN is supposed to mean tolerance of all other religions and tolerance towards those who don't believe in religion. That means that if I want my kids to be taught ONE religion (like Christianity), that I should send them to a private school.

Public school isn't supposed to support one religion. So what if the majority of people in a community go to church? Our country was founded on freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. I didn't want people to ram their religion down my kids' throats. I chose the church I wanted for my kids, and I taught them tolerance for other religions as well.

Now, regarding your child's teacher. Are there children in your child's classroom whose parents don't believe in God? How about Muslim kids, Indian children who may be Hindu, etc? If there is diversity in the class, then the teacher is proselytizing and you need to talk to the principal about it. If all the kids in the class are Christian, then I would let it go.

The hard part is finding out what the religious makeup of the class is. The kid who hasn't told everyone that their parents are athiests and feels like he or she has no choice but to pray or the other kids will bully them, is exactly why the law says no prayer in public schools. That is what you have to determine. If you cannot determine it, then you should go to the principal and explain your position. Your child's teacher is not in compliance with the law. Personally, if you could assure me that every child in that room comes from a Christian home and that they all love saying grace before lunch, I would not have a problem with it. But I doubt you can get that assurance short of calling every parent.

Good luck,

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

To the question: what's the harm? here's the harm:

If the prayer is 'mandatory', three things can happen:
a. you are a 'believer' and this is no problem. you do it at home, prayer is familiar, all is well.
b. your family aren't believers and neither are you. So you have to make this horrible choice, at the ripe old age of five, to either participate in something incongruent to your family's belief system OR to not participate and feel/seem other.

So, if what is stated above in the original post is true, this sounds like prayer is being made compulsory. As someone who suffered as a kid from differences of religion, being made Other is very damaging to a child because it's not like they are asserting their personality with a funky outfit 'other', it's that the child is having to choose who to honor: the school or their family's spiritual practice. I had to make this choice daily because I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness and did not pledge the flag (Witnesses would never pledge their allegiance to anyone or anything but Jehovah.)

This isn't meant to ramble on, simply to address *why* so many parents object to teacher-led prayer being brought into schools. Honestly, if it were even a 'let's take a moment to bow our heads and give thanks'-- I don't think that would be a problem with many families. Bringing a deity into it, however, is not respectful of the student population as a whole.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Public schools are NOT supposed to have prayers lead by anyone. Each child can pray on his or her own but no one should feel forced to say a prayer if they do not choose to.

In my opinion this teacher is violating FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It's unconstitutional. A child can, of his/her own volition, quietly say a private grace before meals, but anything group-led or staff-initiated is absolutely illegal. (Kids can form a club, say, in high school with a voluntary attendance policy, but prayer cannot be used at an all-school gathering like lunch. And, no, the staff can't even ask the kids to say their own private prayer before a meal. Wrong. And, actually, why BEFORE a meal when some religions say it afterwards and some don't say it at all?)

Call the principal first thing Monday morning, and if you don't get a satisfactory answer (namely that it will be stopped), call the superintendent. You can also put in a call to your local American Civil Liberties Union - a phone call from them will stop it.

And I'm really tired of people saying, "Oh gee, what's the problem with a positive note now and then to show you are grateful?" - that's not the point. Religion, or the lack of it, should be taught at home. I don't want anyone choosing prayers for my child except ME and whatever religion I choose. I happen to be a person of faith affiliated with a religion, but I sure don't want to force that on anyone else. And yes, I know "under God" is in the pledge of allegiance, but it wasn't always, and it was only inserted at a specific time in our country's history (a pretty shameful time of panic and discrimination, actually). It's really insulting when some people think their religion is under attack so they have to force it on others. Schools have enough to teach, and religion isn't on the list.

Those who want a religious education can enroll their children in the private school of their choice. I taught for years in two such schools, and it's a wonderful option for those who want it. But the law does not permit this in public schools.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Of course it's illegal.
If she were leading the class in Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Wicca prayers before meals, it would still not be doing any harm but that's not the point.
The teacher can't cover all food rituals for all religions (and what about the atheists who just want to eat already and skip the mumbo jumbo?) and so she has to do none of them.
If kids on their own wish to bow their heads, no one prevents them.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Wow - I'm surprised to hear that they're praying before lunch in a public school. I'm sure most parents would be fine with that, but it's not exactly fair to the kids who are raised not to believe in god or those whose religions don't include this type of public prayer. I'd be talking to the teacher and then perhaps the principal if it was me.

Here's what I was able to find online... which makes it sound like your child's teacher is outside the bounds of what is legal: "Organized prayer in the public school setting, whether in the classroom or at a school-sponsored event, is unconstitutional. The only type of prayer that is constitutionally permissible is private, voluntary student prayer that does not interfere with the school's educational mission. Students have the right to engage in voluntary individual prayer that is not coercive and does not substantially disrupt the school's educational mission and activities. For example, all students have the right to say a blessing before eating a meal. However, school officials must not promote or encourage a student's personal prayer."

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

That is so completely NOT ok. I would be in the principal's office tomorrow. Why would you wait for the next parent teacher conference?

ETA: Checking the school handbook is moot. The constitution and supreme court sort of trump the local school handout.

Who is it hurting to force a child to say -god is great, god is good? Families who do not believe in god, families who do not believe in the Christian god, families who believe in multiple or other deities, free thinking people who believe in our constitution.

This is NOT a statement of simple gratitude. That might go something like this - we are thankful for our food (could add 'and friends). It would NOT go something like 'god is great'.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I do think it is illegal but it is REALLY hard for me to understand why all of you have a problem with this. I bet you let your kids watch all kinds of negative programming on TV with no problem but you have an issue with a small postive note to start the day?????????????????? Do tell. I am just not getting it.
It just comes down to the one true fact of life here in the US today----If you CAN make an issue about something you WILL. Doesn't matter how big or small it is. Its just good sport to complain and to right perceived 'wrongs'.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

If individual kids want to pray over their individual meals, then let them have at it. But a teacher should not be leading a prayer, nor choosing a child to do so.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I guess i am in the minority here. What can it hurt? She is not teaching them to curse.... she is teaching them to be thankful.

Please dont take offense.... i just dont see the negative in it. We need more positive in our schools :(

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on


So in Charleston SC 25 YEARS ago we had to say:

God is good
God is great
Let us thank him for our food
By his hands
We are fed
Give us Lord our daily bread

Before we were allowed to leave the classroom for the cafeteria. When kids refused to pray, they weren't allowed to leave the classroom and had to miss lunch.

I AM COMPLETELY SHOCKED this is still going on.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Wow. Something seems amiss. You should know that I'm 100% Christian - as in we pray before all meals no matter where we are. My daughter even said grace before lunch in the car the other day on an outing with a friend. I've never asked her if she says grace before she eats lunch (she's 13) at school, but I believe she at least says it silently to herself. Having said that, I'd NOT be OK with what's going on at your daughter's school. It's disrespectful of other religions/faiths to say that prayer (or any prayer) for the whole class. I'd check into it for sure. I'd love to know what you find out.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Wow. I thought everyone in 2012 new it was illegal to have prayer in school. (And I'm Christian.)
The fact that they do this offends me. I'd say something.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm a christian, and I teach my son to pray. However, that is a PERSONAL choice. I firmly, 100% believe, that there has to be a separation of church and public schools. (Obviously, private religious schools are different.) I am a little shocked this is happening in a public school. I am willing to bet, that the teacher wants the kids to do this. (Not the school, as a whole.) Freedom OF religion, also means freedom FROM religion.

I don't think you really need to seek out states laws. I'm pretty sure this is a violation of the constitution.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It is illegal for a teacher to lead a prayer in school, which is what she is really doing.

Personally, I'd contact the teacher about it like yesterday. And let her know that it's an illegal activity.

My personal experiences with prayer in public schools is ... there hasn't been any because none of my kids teachers broke the law by leading a prayer in class. And had any of them started it ... I would have made sure it stopped.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Who is it hurting??? If your child doesn't want to participate, she has that right to say--- no thank you, I will pass etc. I think it is awesome for children to have a simple prayer/blessing for food etc. before meals. It teaches them that they should be thankful and grateful for the blessings they have. Prayer/blessings in schools can only help. I would say the same exact thing if this were a Muslim, Jewish, Non-denominational prayer etc.

Whats the harm in saying : God is Good, God is great thank you for the food we eat. etc.?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Organized prayer in public school is unconstitutional. Simple as that.

I'm very curious to hear how this turns out. Let us know what happened.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Wow kids being thankful for what they are about to eat. If a child does not want to participate. There are so many other things to be concerned about. Teachingg them to be thankful is not one. It is not hurting anyone.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i would definitely ask the teacher what's going on and take steps to address it with the administration if indeed this going on. it's very definitely not legal.
i happened to go along at the last minute on a field trip when my younger was in elementary. they went to a VERY christian adventure camp that ended with a wild west show, christian cowboys riding whooping into 'town' and pulling down the saloon and erecting a church in its place.
the other parents, the teachers and the principal just couldn't seem to understand why i objected, not only to the field trip itself (bad enough), but to the fact that nothing in the permission slip indicated that this school-sponsored field trip was heavily religious.
sometimes personnel feel that if THEY think it's relatively inoffensive, no one else will object.
it's important that citizens who believe in the separation between church and state remain vigilant.
ETA to lynne, i'm not sure why i'm 'crazy' to have questioned a field trip to an adventure camp. as i stated, nowhere in the permission slip was religion mentioned. while i am a fairly gifted psychic reader, even i can't glean information that's been deliberately omitted.
2nd ETA i'll bet every one of you who feels it's a 'harmless prayer' and that it's simply 'expressing gratitude' would be screaming meemies if that prayer were directed to demeter.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I remember having to tell one of my staff that they couldn't read the Bible to our clients. It wasn't a religious establishment,school, or agency. The client also did not ask to be read the Bible, nor wanted them to do it.

I would think the Principal would have to remind that teacher as well. It surprising that it is said in a public school. Especially nowadays.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Religion shouldn't be involved whatsoever at a public school. Parents who want religion to be a daily part of their child's learning experience should pay for private school. We have a separation of church and state for a reason. Frankly, I'm irritated at the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, but my kids still say it to avoid being made fun of by other children. If there were a compulsory prayer like you're talking about, then they'd feel compelled to sit there and say it, despite the fact that this in no way reflects our family's belief system. In short, being forced to pray to the Christian god and betray our own beliefs would become necessary to avoid bullying/teasing - and public school is supposed to be a place that is safe from that. Our constitution guarantees that there will be no state establishment of religion, and public school is run by the state. Faculty-led prayer is illegal in all 50 states in public schools, no question about it.

I'd be talking to the teacher about this on Monday morning, and if you discover that they actually lead a prayer before lunch, I'd expect them to stop doing that. The teacher is not to force her religion on any child during the school day. If you can't get a satisfactory resolution speaking with the teacher, then go to the Principal, Superintendent, ACLU... whomever you have to to get this resolved. I am sure you're not the only parent who questions what's going on here. I'd have no problem with children praying on their own, quietly, prior to lunch, but my child shouldn't be forced to participate.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Way, way beyond inappropriate. Public school is not the place for prayer. Please voice your concern and have this stopped.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Well they make you say the pledge. And that has God in that. Do you mind about that?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

If it's CHILD led, it's legal. If it's on the childrens own time (lunch or recess) and if the children request it without prompting, then I wouldn't have an issue with it.

If it's TEACHER led, it's illegal. Again, it's on the childrens own time but if the teacher prompts it and leads it without any of the children requesting it then it's illegal.

However, the better safe than sorry approach would be to ask the children to say their own private prayer in their heads before they eat if they choose to. If a child wants help remembering the words to a prayer or blessing then the teacher can ask the parents to send in a printed copy of the family's preferred meal blessing to keep at school.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I wish I could get the 85% of my tax bill back for having to put my kids in Private Christian school, so they can say a harmless prayer.

To everyone that thinks Parents should just simply put their child in Private school, well then I hope you are supportive of people not being forced to pay thousands of dollars to a public school that they don't even use.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

My kids pray before lunch at school because it is our belief...however, I would never assume that the whole class should, nor would I request it.

I think you need to talk to the principal. As far as the legalities of it, I would just do a Google search.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Wow I am surprised that is happening, especially in a public school. I am not against it, just surprised. And I bet the teacher will be surprised too when he/she gets reprimanded for it. Not sure of any legal website but I'm sure you can look up your local school district website and see what their policy is on religion in the schools.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I have never heard of a public school saying prayers (even when I was in school it was just the Pledge and a moment of silence....which I believe should still be in place so those that wish to pray can regardless of their religion). Since it isn't a religious specific prayer, I don't see a problem with it but that is just me.

As for the poster that said they had a problem with a strongly religious field trip while attending a very religious adventure camp is was a religious adventure was implied.

I think everyone needs to realize that separation of church & state guarantees freedom OF religion rather than freedom FROM religion. Addtionally, there are always problems if/when we don't respect someone else's religion and infringe on their activies but it seems to be the norm to put stops to christian religious activities.

If I were you and you have a problem with this, get details from your child and the teacher and then review the school's handbook. From there you should know if you need to contact the principal or school board.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Athens on

Separation of church and state. If they want to do a moment of silence, that would be fine in any school. I wouldn't expect prayer in public schools.

I like separation of church and state. I don't want anyone to force me to be religious.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Prayer is legal in schools. You can instruct your child not to participate, if that is what you choose.
I'd be willing to be there are more parents that want prayer in schools than those who don't.
We need to do more to bring God back into our daily lives.

God bless!



answers from Atlanta on

Amen, I think she has a wonderful teacher.



answers from Charleston on

I love the "I don't want anyone choosing my child's prayer/religion besides me" statements - hello! How about letting the kid choose for themselves.

a) read the constitution. It says there will be no state sponsored religion. Praying to an un-named deity is not the state sponsoring a religion. A teacher asking the class to pray is not the state sponsoring a religion. Mandating that your can't mention god in a public school IS much closer to sponsoring a religion (that of athiesm). As long as the government is not telling you you have to be X religion in order to be a citizen with full rights thereof, they are not creating a state sponsored religion.

b) How is your child going to make an informed choice on religion without exposure? So you are an athiest - why does your child HAVE to follow in your foot steps? I am a christian, raised in a christian home. I have 2 brothers - one is agnostic, one is athiest. How does this happen? My parents RESPECTED our right to choose our own faith. Yes, we went to church. We were also exposed to other religions. Around 8th grade, my parents told us we were old enough to make a thoughtful, informed decision and if we wanted to talk to them we could, but they stopped bringing these topics up. My brothers stopped attending church at that time. I joined the church. We all still love eachother and we are a close family. Part of going out into the world is that your child will be exposed to things you don't believe are good - maybe a religion, maybe teen (and younger) pregnancy, maybe drugs, foul language, music you don't like, and so forth. So this is the PARENT's teaching opportunity. Teach your child why atheism is valuable, and how to deal with religious people. Your child will continue to encounter people of many different faiths as he/she grow up, so he/she needs to know how to co-exist with these people. Maybe silence during the prayer time, maybe privately requesting that the teacher not choose him/her to lead the prayer as this is not a shared belief. But instead of ranting and raving, be an example of how a mature atheist defends his or her faith (because you do have faith - a faith that there is no such thing as god). Take your child with you to talk to the teacher and be a model of how people of differing belief systems can co-exist.

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