Praying for blessings for our schools

Published 11:44 pm Saturday, August 10, 2013

This summer Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law that certainly didn’t get the publicity that his line item vetoes did, but this bill is important. I believe it could change our schools and in turn, our parish.

This law involves prayer.

I’ve heard it said for years we need to return prayer to our public schools. This bill doesn’t officially do that, but it certainly helps.

House Bill 724 allows students, faculty, parents and religious community leaders to gather for prayer on school grounds during non-instruction times. It states that school authorities may permit public school students to gather for prayer before or after school or at any non-instructional time during the school day, and it provides for attendance by school employees, parents and persons from the community under certain circumstances.

Voluntary prayer at public schools during non-instructional times was already legal in the United States, but state legislators who sponsored this bill argued that it would provide the proper guidelines to students so they know their religious rights without violating the First Amendment.

School organizations and clubs have always been allowed to bring guest speakers into their meetings, but this bill also gives students who want to pray on campus the right to host religious leaders for their prayer sessions. It also allows teachers to participate if students invite them, and if they are asked, the teachers, too, can lead the prayers.

Wow. Can you imagine how different our schools can be if prayer becomes part of the regular school and school community routines?

Varnado-Angie community members can imagine it, and they are already doing something about it. They are praying loudly and openly, and they are doing it on school campuses.

Community members, students and school employees gathered Wednesday afternoon for a prayer walk at Varnado High School, and they did the same Thursday at Wesley Ray Elementary. They prayed for protection of the teachers and students during this new school year; they prayed for blessings for their schools.

I hope other school communities in our parish will follow suit. Can you imagine if groups were on every school campus praying for God’s guidance and protection? Can you imagine what kind of change that prayer could bring?

The state House of Representatives and the state Senate voted unanimously in support of this bill, and Gov. Jindal signed it quickly. Now it’s time for us to take action, just like they did in Varnado and Angie.

To the organizers of last week’s prayer walks, thank you for openly inviting God back into your schools.

Sandy Cunningham is publisher of The Daily News.