The Problem With Public Piety

Book of Matthew

Fox Radio’s Todd Starnes is reporting a case in which certain parties are claiming that they were prevented from praying. Here is an excerpt from his report:

“Prayer is important at Florida’s Cambridge Christian School.

“We train our students that prayer is foundational to their walk with Christ,” Head of School Tim Euler told me. “Our faith is founded in prayer.”

So when Cambridge Christian faced off against University Christian School last December in the 2A state championship football game, they asked the Florida High School Athletic Association if they could begin with a word of prayer.

The FHSAA said no.

They told both Christian schools that offering a pre-game prayer was against the law – that it could be viewed as an endorsement of religion since the schools would be praying on government property.

“This is ridiculous,” said Jeremy Dys, an attorney with Liberty Institute. “We’ve got two Christian schools being told they can’t pray.”

Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues, is representing Cambridge Christian.”

The legal issue in this case is something for legal scholars to debate. What matters to this writer is the biblical issue that this particular case pertains to.

Were the members of those two football teams completely prevented from praying, or were they simply prevented from engaging in a public display of piety?

It would be reasonable to ask what prevented those teams from praying on their buses or from praying in their locker rooms before going onto the playing field.

Why was it necessary to make a public show of their praying?

People acquainted with the teachings of Jesus might ask another question: Were those teams aware of what Jesus says in Matthew 6:5-6?

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautions his audience to refrain from public displays of piety, because such displays do no heavenly good.

This not to say that Christians shouldn’t make public declarations of their faith, but rather that Jesus said something specific about the time and place for prayer.

To be fair, the players on those two teams are simply following the teachings of the adults who run their schools. So, the burden is on those adults to align what they teach with what Jesus taught.

In the end, it may be that the two teams have a valid legal complaint, but there still needs to be a dialogue about the proper practice what Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:5-6.

(Bible quote from New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

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