"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Proverbs 1: 7 (NIV)
Much evidence exists that America's founding fathers desired public education to include religious training. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities were started to train gospel ministers; and educated many of America's early leaders. All three schools produced signers of the Declaration of Independence and/or the U.S. Constitution. One of these founding fathers was Fisher Ames.
In 1789, Fisher Ames wrote, "We are spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principal text in our schools." An author of the First Amendment, Fisher Ames suggested its wording which was adopted by the House: "Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the right of conscience." He believed the Bible should be an instruction book and would not find its use in public schools to be unconstitutional.
Passage of laws such as the Old Deluder Satan Act (1647) and the Northwest Ordinance's Article 3 (1787) supported the importance of religious education. Early textbooks such as The New England Primer and the McGuffey Readers included lessons in religion and morality.
Yet, in 1962 (Engel vs. Vitale), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that government-directed prayer in public schools violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. In 1963, (Abington vs. Schempp), the 8-1 Supreme Court decision declared sanctioned organized Bible reading in public schools to be unconstitutional. The protection of student-initiated prayer not interfering with school hours, as well as the reading of religious verses during non-instructional times, remains.
Research by David Barton published in "America: To Pray of Not to Pray" indicated that from 1963, SAT scores rapidly declined for 18 years in a row. The research also indicated a dramatic increase in crime, sexually transmitted diseases, premarital sex, illiteracy, suicide, illegal drug use, and divorce rate. Abortion became legal in 1973.
As our hope is in God alone, we will pray for students, parents, teachers and staff members, coaches, administrators, and board members:
- All will fear (respect, reverence) the LORD (Proverbs 1:7).
- God grant wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Proverbs 2:6 ; Daniel 1:17).
- God provide protection, help, and strength (Psalm 121 ; Isaiah 40: 29- 31).
David Barton, Four Centuries of American Education, Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 2004