by Caden Ziegler
Separation of Church and State has been an issue in America since its founding. In fact, this very issue caused some unrest amongst the delegates during the opening session.
The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag has been repeated by millions people in the US; primarily in schools and other government institutions. Briana Taylor, delegate from Hays High School, states that while she thinks “it’s good to have a sense of community within fellow Americans,” but believes making people say a pledge is “expecting to much out of your people.” She says that pledging is like “making you give your alliance to them if anything bad were to go down.”
According to Taylor, many students across the nation feel that the “pledge doesn’t represent everyone in America,” so no one should be forced to say it. In fact, the American Humanist Association ran an online survey and found that one-third of all Americans think that “under God” should be taken out of the pledge.
Overall, she believes that the pledge shouldn’t be said in public facilities like schools, because “our nation was founded on religious beliefs but things have changed even from then.” Not everyone was religious then, but there was more religious prosecution that there is today. On June 27, 2002, a federal appeals court declared that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, so the pledge was banned from being recited at school in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
“Obviously we are not all religious now,” she says, so “it should be religious freedom for all.” While the “one nation under God” part of the pledge “does have historical context… [some people] may not be that practicing religion, and they may find it offensive.”
Katie Horton, a Christian Hays High School delegate, said that she was “a little shocked” when Peyton Lawrence came up to the podium to pray over the entire conference, “because this was a public school event.”
Though she has witnessed a lot of religious subtext in public schools, Katie says: “I think that in public school settings it’s not really [the schools] place to be religious. When I go to club meetings, sometimes they will say a prayer before we start the club and it’s at school, that seems kind of inappropriate.”
Though she is Christian herself, she believes that religion and state establishments and events should be separated. The opening prayer at the session could have offended some people, and Horton says that she “thinks about the people that aren’t religious, and how [being forced to pray] could make people uncomfortable.”