Around New England

Old NH Law Permitting Teaching “Lord’s Prayer” In Grade Schools Called “Hidden Virus” By State Rep, Faces Repeal

January 18, 2019

New Hampshire state Rep. Amanda Bouldin, a Democrat, is supporting a bill in the NH legislator that will repeal an obscure 1975 law that authorizes elementary school teachers to lead students – who may participate voluntarily – in the recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer,” a traditional Christian prayer often used in Christian liturgy. According to WMUR, Bouldin describes the law as viral.

“At the time, it was deemed unconstitutional, but nothing was done, and it continues to live in our RSAs today sort of as a hidden virus,” Bouldin said to WMUR.

According to the Union Leader, Bouldin spoke recently before the House Education Committee (HEC) as the prime sponsor of a bill – HB 289 – that would repeal the Lord’s Prayer law, or RSA 194:15-a.

The Union Leader also reports that the NH Supreme Court had offered an advisory opinion and said the 1975 law was unconstitutional. 

Found in the section of state code regulating education and pedagogy, the 1975 law reads as follows:

194:15-a Lord’s Prayer in Public Elementary Schools. – As an affirmation of the freedom of religion in this country, a school district may authorize the recitation of the traditional Lord’s prayer in public elementary schools. Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayer shall be voluntary. Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord’s prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms, which freedoms include the freedom of religion and are symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s prayer.”

Neil Hubacker of New Hampshire Cornerstone, a conservative non-profit group in Concord, told WMUR he worried the repeal will indicate legislative “animus toward religion in general and specifically towards Christians.”

The Union Leader reports that Shannon McGinley, also of Cornerstone, told the HEC the repeal would be“a clear rejection of the law’s framework within which mere recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is permitted within historical context for the purpose of teaching students about what the law calls ‘our great freedoms.’”

McGinley further added that if HB 289 passes she hoped it would be followed by an amendment protecting student-led prayers to provide “assurance that animus toward religion is not the driving force behind HB 289.”

“Ruling out recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is one thing. Airbrushing it out of American history is another,” McGinley reportedly told the HEC.

In her remarks to the HEC and reported by the Union Leader, Bouldin said “no teacher would want to take advantage of this opportunity [teaching the Lord’s Prayer] because they would be worried about the liability and constitutionality of teaching prayer in public schools.”

WMUR writes that sponsors of HB 289 “said it’s not an attack on prayer or religion” and that the HEC “will keep an open mind as they deliberate.”




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