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Austin Cline

Christine O'Donnell: School Shootings Caused by a Lack of School Prayer

By October 8, 2010

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It's easy to find extremist ideas that have been expressed by Christine O'Donnell -- but in almost all cases, "extremist" should be read as "unreasonably distant from reality," not "outside the conservative mainstream." Almost all of her "extremism" is common and popular with conservative evangelical Christians. This helps demonstrate how far from reality those Christians are.

Case in point is Christine O'Donnell's assertion that violence in America's schools is somehow a product of a lack of school prayer. Of course, students can pray pretty much all they want -- all that's been removed are state-written, state-sponsored, state-mandated, and state-encouraged prayers. So what O'Donnell is really saying is that if the state bureaucrats were allowed to write prayers for students to recite every day, there would be less school violence.

That's silly, but you'll find a lot of conservative evangelicals saying basically this, over and over. It's an article of faith. Since when did faith have anything to do with facts?

"We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we're having weekly shootings practically," O'Donnell, then a Christian activist, said in August 1998 during an appearance on ABC's "Politically Incorrect."

She didn't cite any sources and defended her statement when host Bill Maher and other guests scoffed. She prefaced: "My point is there are consequences to our actions, and if we as a nation tolerate sin, generations to come will reap the effects."

Source: Raw Story

To be fair, it's true that there are consequences for our actions -- but this is a curious statement in this context from a politician who is so staunchly pro-gun and who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. If she were serious about linking actions to consequences in a factual manner, she'd take the time to look at the nation's gun laws and gun policies first and prayer second.

To make it easy to see why Christine O'Donnell's argument is really a fallacy, consider another series of momentous legal, political, and social events which happened around the same time: Civil Rights and School Integration. How many opponents of church/state separation are willing to argue that the decline in school performance and increase in both school and social ills are due to Civil Rights and School Integration? Not many -- but, from a correlative perspective, that is no less valid than attributing our social problems to the elimination of state-mandated school prayer.

In Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence, Mike Huckabee offered a similar reaction to the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shooting:

Despite all our prosperity, pomp, and power, the vaunted American experiment in liberty seems to be disintegrating before our very eyes. ...

Abortion, environmentalism, AIDS, pornography, drug abuse, and homosexual activism have fragmented and polarized our communities. ...

It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations - from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.

How can it be that people who are exercising their liberties are undermining the American experiment in liberty? Perhaps an answer lies in how often religious conservatives complain about people who "abuse" their liberty by engaging in behavior that conservatives dislike. For such people, "liberty" exists solely to believe the "truth" of Christianity and obey the "truth" of Christian laws. There is no liberty in falsehood, error, heresy, and sin.

The fact of the matter is, our social problems are complex, their origins are complex and their solutions will be complex. Even if the lack of official school prayers contributed anything at all to those problems, it would be invalid and simplistic to focus only on them as some sort of magic-bullet solution. As it is, no actual causal connection has been demonstrated by anyone -- all people can do is point to a correlation in time and claim, without basis, that this alone justifies a causal relationship.

But maybe "simplistic" is the best that politicians like Mike Huckabee and Christine O'Donnell have to offer.

Comments
October 9, 2010 at 3:23 am
(1) Jeffrey says:

There are a couple of things that you are leaving out when you say that taking prayer out of schools didn’t cause the problems we have. You seem to forget we also took away paddling and discipline. God tells us that if we love our children then we will discipline them. Also whatever you allow into your spirit becomes who you are. So why shouldn’t there be a time set aside for prayer? This country was founded on God! Now everyone wants to take God out of everything until an incident like 9/11 happens and then we want God back. Some of the same people probably you as well was begging “God bless America.” So called atheist don’t believe until they get into trouble then they want God to intervene.

October 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

There are a couple of things that you are leaving out when you say that taking prayer out of schools didn’t cause the problems we have. You seem to forget we also took away paddling and discipline.

At the exact same time? And since when was “discipline” eliminated from schools?

God tells us that if we love our children then we will discipline them.

And how is that relevant for policies in secular schools?

Also whatever you allow into your spirit becomes who you are. So why shouldn’t there be a time set aside for prayer?

Kids are free to pray as much as they want. What’s so hard to understand about that?

This country was founded on God!

Funny, I thought it was founded on the Constitution.

Now everyone wants to take God out of everything until an incident like 9/11 happens and then we want God back.

Funny, I thought the people responsible for 9/11 were acting in the name of God. Perhaps less God would have been the answer for them.

Some of the same people probably you as well was begging “God bless America.”

Nope. I recommend asking questions before making such assumptions about people you don’t know.

So called atheist don’t believe until they get into trouble then they want God to intervene.

Nope, not any atheists I’ve ever known. Name one incident where this has happened.

October 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm
(3) joe says:

It’s just so sad that Jeffrey really thought he was making some good points and proving you wrong. He must assume that God didn’t like him as much as others, since he’s clearly not the brightest.

October 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm
(4) God Isn't says:

Prayer has had no discernible effect on clergy, who, presumably, pray more than the laity, or there wouldn’t be so many horror stories of clergy raping and otherwise abusing children and even adults.

There’s no reason to believe that prayer would have any more effect on children, who are not prevented from praying silently while at school, or from praying aloud at home, or at church/synagogue/temple, etc.

December 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm
(5) aprsn918 says:

Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey. I sincerely hope one day you will wake up and realize that you have been a parrot for a propaganda machine that wants you to be part of its collective. Like the Borg. Resistance is NOT futile!!! Break away, young man! Break away!!

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