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PUBLIC PRAYER: A LOST CAUSE?

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Say a prayer for the U.S. Supreme Court. It certainly could use some divine guidance on the proper role of prayer in public life. Just don't invoke such guidance at school - at least not openly.

This week the high court, following up its long-standing ban on classroom prayers, barred even non-denominational prayers at graduation ceremonies.Why? Because, as five of the nine justices see it, officially arranged prayers at school events amount to a governmental endorsement of religion. And because the prayers supposedly compel the participation of students who object.

Incredible! What's the Supreme Court to ban next in the name of keeping government and non-believers from being "tainted" by religion?

Must the words "under God" be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance? What about the phrase "so help me, God" commonly uttered by people upon taking an oath of public office?

Must Congress and state legislatures quit opening their sessions with prayer? Must the U.S. Mint stop stamping American coins with the motto: "In God We Trust"?

And after these "mistakes" are corrected, what's next? A foray against private petitions to deity, too?

It could be a risky course that the Supreme Court is forcing upon this country. The risk is that a nation whose government does not openly recognize deity is a nation whose government may not be recognized by deity.

Let's pray that such fears are exaggerated. In dissenting from this week's Supreme Court decision, Justice Antonin Scalia called it a "disaster" but hoped it would not prevent schools from holding prayers as long as participation was voluntary. To that hope, we add a hearty amen.