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Why is Prayer at School So Threatening to Atheists?

By Matt Sharp posted on:
October 17, 2017

There is an event happening at schools all across the country later this month that, according to Freedom From Religion Foundation (“FFRF”), people need to be warned about. FFRF admonishes that the event is an “ostentatious display of piety at school.” It “breeds divisiveness and bullying,” and can even “build walls between public school students who would otherwise get along.”

What is this “spontaneous eruption of religiosity” that FFRF finds to be so threatening to students at public schools? Prayer, or more specifically, the annual See You at the Pole.

On September 25th, millions of students across the globe will participate in See You at the Pole by joining together before the beginning of the school day to pray for their friends, families, teachers, school, and nations. Gathered around the flagpole of their elementary, middle, and high schools, they will cry out to God for forgiveness, favor, and protection for the coming year.

Yet there are many people and groups, like FFRF, that find the peaceful prayers of this gathering of Christian students to be threatening. No one is being forced to participate in the event, nor is it interfering with class time. So what is the threat?

The theme of this year’s See You at the Pole is #IFTHEN. It comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14 which is summarized as “If we pray, seek, turn; then God hears, forgives, heals.”

To FFRF and groups like it, the threat of prayer at school is the “then.” The threat is that when students pray, then God responds. If prayer didn’t work, then a group of students gathering around a flagpole early in the morning to talk to God would pose no threat. If prayer didn’t work, then FFRF would not find it “unfortunate” that students are encouraged to “reach out to [their] classmates who do not know God’s love and forgiveness.”

But if prayer really works, then that group of students calling out to God around the flagpole becomes a threat to those who deny the God’s existence or His sovereignty over this world. If prayer really works, then it is a threat to those who would seek to corrupt a generation of students into embracing a godless worldview. If prayer really works, then students might turn to God and come to know His love and forgiveness.

Alliance Defending Freedom stands with See You at the Pole and with every student who desires to call upon the name of God. To help these students, we have prepared a letter explaining students’ well-established legal right to engage in prayer and worship at See You at the Pole and to promote the event at school. If officials at your school have questions about the event, share our letter with them. And if you experience any difficulty promoting or participating in the event, contact us.

An impotent prayer is no threat to anyone. But an effective prayer to a God who hears … well, I guess some might find that a little threatening.

Matt Sharp

Matt Sharp

Senior Counsel, State Government Relations National Director

Matt Sharp serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he directs the Center for Legislative Advocacy.

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