Max and the Separation of Church and State


Today Max and I were driving along listening to NPR, and of course the phrase "police protection" caught his ear. A high school girl in RI has returned to school (with police protection) after successfully challenging her public school for having a prayer posted on a wall. The prayer is now covered up.

Max, who is deeply interested in all things pertaining to the police, firefighters, and (lately) the Coast Guard, wanted to know about the police protection, so I did my best to explain the separation of church and state and how some people get angry about things relating to religion, especially if they feel that their own religion and beliefs are somehow threatened, even if imposing their beliefs on others is unconstitutional.

He listened. I tried to explain the constitution as well as religious fervor.

Possibly, I didn't explain things clearly.

Max was quiet for minute. Then he told me that if he saw a prayer in his school, "we'd all go outside and then the police would come."

I'm not sure if he'd call the police or if they would simply know to head on over, but in any case, he seems to think that "prayer" and "police" are somehow connected.

We may be an agnostic/atheist family, but I'm not sure I want him to view prayer as an emergency situation.

UPDATE: I would just like to point out that even religious, Jesus-loving people can confuse the children. My niece, when quite young, was riding in a car with an equally young friend. The friend mentioned Jesus, and my niece asked who Jesus was (you could say we're a fairly non-religious family overall). The other child responded that Jesus had been a man but "they killed him and nailed him to a cross."

Imagine trying to get your head around that when you're four or five. Maybe it's not such a bad idea to call the police when you see an illegal prayer.


Julia Magnusson


Twitter: @notlikeacat


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