America's Right to Pray: Resisting Unjust Judges

There's a poignant scene in the movie, Casablanca, when the Nazis occupied North Africa. At one tense moment as a group of German officers begin singing their national anthem, something snaps in the crowd of Frenchmen. In spontaneous defiance, they begin singing "La Marseillaise."

Even facing armed tyrants, the people wouldn't give in.

I thought about this dramatic scene recently as I read how thousands of football fans across the country are reacting to the Supreme Court's ban on student-led prayer at football games.

What has happened? Spontaneous prayer has broken out all over America-something I advocated in a late June commentary on BreakPoint.

In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a few students held hands in the bleachers, and they began the Lord's Prayer. But by the time they got to "deliver us from evil," 4,500 people had joined them.

In Hendersonville, North Carolina, a Presbyterian pastor led prayer before a football game; the crowd joined in. In Searcy, Arkansas, the school board voted to let a Christian group hold prayer vigils around a stadium flagpole.

In some cities, radio stations have allowed ministers to pray, and football fans joined in by portable radio. And boldest of all, the Lexington, South Carolina school board reaffirmed a pre-game prayer policy, and a student led the crowd in prayer-in direct defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.

Like the scene in Casablanca, the moral convictions of the people refused to be broken. Unlike the movie, however, these are real people who pay their taxes, obey the laws, and mind their own business-quiet people in ordinary places doing an extraordinary thing: expressing their resistance to a Supreme Court that has gone too far.

They flinched when prayer was taken from the classroom, and they swallowed hard when the Bible was expelled. But when the Court demonstrated such clear hostility to religion this year, they said no. And they prayed.

The usual media crowd accused them of trying to force their values on others. But more surprising was the number of high-profile Christians who criticized them. One Christian writer said prayer has no place in public, and used Christ's admonition to pray in private as his defense.

He's missed the point! It's not that America will fail if prayer is outlawed at football games. It won't. But America most assuredly will fail if the courts continue their unconstitutional usurpation of power.

Issues like the role of religion in public life are supposed to be debated and decided by a Congress that represents the people. But the justices have cast Congress aside like an old rag, specifically declaring themselves the ultimate lawmakers.

Some would even say that Christians aren't supposed to worry about such things. Well, tell that to the apostle Paul, who insisted on his rights as a Roman citizen and forced the Roman government to honor them.

With all due respect, we are under no obligation to stand by silently as our Constitution is violated by a power-hungry Court.

This experiment in self-government was established to rule with the consent of the governed. And the governed-including Christians-have a duty to respond in an appropriate and peaceful way whenever institutions hostile to our religious freedom step over the line.

(Originally presented on "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson," 9/21/00, Copyright (c) 2000 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission.)