Hey fellow nontheists,
First an apology for being so inactive these past several month. I've been participating in a lot of nontheist communities (mostly on Google+) and I've neglected you guys. Sorry 'bout that.
So, here's my dilemma: This past weekend I attended a party for my cousin and his new wife. In doing so, I ran into many of the extended family on my paternal side. One of them is my cousin who is many years (more than twenty) my senior. This cousin is a kindergarten teacher at a charter school here in Central Ohio, USA. The name escapes me at present--I believe it contained the word "Patriot" in the title. I heard her describing this school to another member of my family and during this, she mentioned that they have Christian prayers before class begins. This is all well and good. So I inquired to my cousin if this were a private school. This is when I discovered that this is a charter school and is funded at least partially by public tax dollars.
I further discovered that my cousin herself was leading the prayer and that "anybody who doesn't want to participate can leave the room." This poses a bit of a problem for the necessary separation of church and state. Obviously, one cannot prevent a child from praying at school and I think it would be morally reprehensible to try. However, to be lead in prayer by the teacher and to exclude those who do no wish to participate seems a problem for a publicly funded school.
My cousin is a good person and she loves her job very much, but the possible impact of bringing something like this to the attention of those of us who wish to uphold the values set upon in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution cannot be understated. I do not wish to introduce conflict or animosity within my family whom I love so dearly. Yet, this seems like a real problem.
Any ideas on how I should proceed? Thanks for taking the time to read!
This is a tough one Nate. Here is a link that may help and you may want to pass it on to your cousin.
"Anyone who doesn't want to pray can leave the room" ... and instantly stigmatize themselves. And if this school is using public funds, CONGRATULATIONS, SCHOOL! You're in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution!
Want to take serious and effective action? Contact the Legal Department of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They've handled many such cases and should be able to give you all the support you need.
It doesn't sound as if you have a very close relationship with the cousin. If you had, I would suggest you simply ask her how she feels about the separation issue.
That said, I'd still be reluctant to declare war on a family member for this issue. If it makes you feel better, maybe you can find a way to outweigh her impact by applying your efforts elsewhere on this same subject. That might be thought of as thinking strategically, rather than tactically.
Just my opinion of course.