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US Representative Louie Gohmert speaks during a news conference on Section 230 in Washington, D.C. on April 27.
US Representative Louie Gohmert speaks during a news conference on Section 230 in Washington, D.C. on April 27.Stefani Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images, file

The misguided, illegal, and ironic GOP push for school prayer

It was only a matter of time before Republicans responded to mass shootings by talking about school prayer. Alas, this is unwise for a variety of reasons.


In the aftermath of deadly mass shootings, Republicans have gotten creative in trying to deflect attention away from guns. Assorted GOP voices have blamed the multitude of doors at schools, abortion, video games, “secularization,” absentee fathers, and possibly even marijuana.

It was only a matter of time before the party turned its attention on school prayer. HuffPost noted:

According to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), if everyone had just prayed more, 19 children and two teachers might not have been massacred by a gunman in a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school last month.

Gohmert helped get the ball rolling during a House committee hearing yesterday, declaring, “Look, maybe if we heard more prayers from leaders of this country instead of taking God’s name in vain, we wouldn’t have the mass killings like we didn’t have before prayer was eliminated from school.”

Around the same time, Scalise spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference and told reporters, “We had AR-15s in the 1960s. We didn’t have those mass school shootings. Now, I know it’s something that some people don’t want to talk about, but we actually had prayer in school during those days.”

At this point, we could point to examples of mass school shootings that occurred in that era. We could also reflect on why it’s a terrible mistake to look at that era through rose-colored glasses.

But stepping back, I think there are a couple of other problems Republicans like Gohmert and Scalise don’t understand, though they definitely should.

The first is that when GOP officials claim that prayers have been “eliminated” from public schools, they’re demonstrably wrong. As we’ve discussed, voluntary prayer was never removed from schools. What court rulings did was require public schools to remain neutral on matters of faith, leaving religious guidance in the hands of parents, families, and faith leaders.

What Scalise and Gohmert seem to prefer is the old model: A system in which students pray on their own isn’t as good as one in which school officials intervene in children’s religious lives.

Or put another way, the Republican congressmen look back wistfully at a time when government’s reach was bigger than it is today.

All of which leads to a less obvious problem: Republicans don’t trust public school educators when it comes to race, history, and respect for LGBTQ Americans, but Republicans are nevertheless eager to give educators firearms while empowering them to lead in-class religious exercises?