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Home --> Politics --> Soapbox --> The New School Prayer

The New School Prayer

Claim:   The satirical poem The New School Prayer was penned by a schoolchild.

Status:   Undetermined.

Examples:   [Collected on the Internet, 1999]

THE NEW SCHOOL PRAYER

This was written by a teen in Bagdad, Arizona. This is incredible!



Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's "inappropriate" to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such "judgments" do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!

Amen

Origins:   This Prayer bit of doggerel has variously been attributed to "a child in Boston," "a 12-year-old girl in Boston," and "a teen in Baghdad, Arizona." Additionally, some versions also lay claim to a date of origin: "This was written by a teen in Bagdad, Arizona, in January of 2000, and posted on a public bulletin board."

The earliest example of the full text collected so far comes from June 1999, which immediately puts paid to the "January 2000" claim associated with one version. But the piece is much older than that — witness the following verse harvested from a 1992 issue of The Washington Times and credited to "an anonymous student":
Now I sit me down in school,
where praying is against the rule:
For this great nation under God
finds public mention of him odd.
Any prayer a class recites
now violates the Bill of Rights;
All I ask is a minute of quiet,
and if I feel like praying I'll try it;
If not, O Lord, one plea I make:
If knifed in school, my soul You'll take.
In 1993 a greatly expanded version of the above verse appeared in the pages of The Detroit News, thanks to an article by former U.S. Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, who included it in a piece he authored for the National Review magazine. Once again an "anonymous student" was credited for the prayer:
Now I sit me down in school,
Where praying is against the rule;
For this great nation under God,
Finds public mention of Him quite odd.
Any prayer a class recites,
Now violates the Bill of Rights;
The law is specific, the law is precise;
Praying aloud is no longer nice;
Praying out loud in a public hall
Upsets believers in nothing-at-all.
In silence alone we can meditate,
And if God should be reached, well, that's great.
This rule, however, has one gimmick in it,
You have to be finished in less than a minute.
So all I ask is a minute of quiet,
And if I feel like praying, then maybe I'll try it.
If not, O Lord, this one plea I make:
Should I be knifed in school, my soul You'll take.
Yet even that example wasn't the beginning of this poem. A Xerox-lore version in circulation is inscribed "1/85 found in Jim's German book":
Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule,
For this great nation under God
Finds public mention of him odd,
Any prayer a class recites
Now violates the bill of rights;
Any time my head I bow
Becomes a federal matter now.
Teach us of stars, of pole and equator
But make no mention of their creator;
Tell us of exports in Denmark and Sweden
But not a word of what Eve did in Eden
The law is specific, the law is precise
Praying out loud is no longer nice;
Praying aloud in a public hall
Upsets believers in nothing at all.
In silence alone can we meditate
And if God gets the credit.... great!
This rule, however has a gimmick in it:
You've got to be finished in less than a minute;
So all that I ask is a minute of quiet
If I feel like praying, then maybe I'll try it;
If not, oh Lord, this plea I make,
If I die in school, my soul you'll take.
This version is simply signed "Anonymous" — no claims are made that it was penned by an anonymous student. Anonymous student or adult with a pro-school prayer agenda, the poem, in all its incarnations, is a fine rip on "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" (which itself exists in a myriad of versions):
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
Keep me safely through the night
And wake me up with morning light
"The New School Prayer" puts a different spin on the usual arguments in support of school prayer by asserting that the kids themselves — not just their parents — want organized prayer re-instituted within the public school system.

By the way, there really is a Bagdad, Arizona. (Yes, that's its correct spelling — the fellow who named the place out of admiration for "Arabian Nights" stories he'd read as a child forgot the silent 'h' that should have been in there.) Bagdad is a town with a population of approximately 1,800. It can be found ninety miles west of Phoenix, at the end of Arizona 96.

Barbara "letting the cat out of the bagdad" Mikkelson

Update:   In November 2004, a high school principal in Athens, Georgia, read "The New School Prayer" over the school's intercom, then apologized a week later after receiving complaints from parents who said his actions violated the principle of separation of church and state.

Last updated:   1 December 2004

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  Sources Sources:
    DeSmet, Kate.   "Church's Newsletter, A Student's Secret Prayer."
    The Detroit News.   7 May 1993   (p. B3).

    McCaslin, John.   "Inside the Beltway."
    The Washington Times.   29 October 1992   (p. A6).

    Associated Press.   "Principal Sorry for 'School Prayer' Poem."
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer.   29 November 2004.