Letter: Respect, not prayer, is the remedy for bullying

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Julie McDonald-Smith’s column advocating for prayer and even Bible study in schools as a part of the remedy for school bullying fails to take into account the vast number of students who are harassed because of an LGBT identity or expression that conflicts with Christian and otherwise conservative cultural ideals. Her arguments rely on the fact that this is a majority Christian nation and that we have had prayer in schools for much of our country’s history. Ironically, her use of tradition and majority rule to flaunt the rights of minorities and non-conforming people are the arguments of bullies.

I also do not see how, if prayer were reinstated in public education, in a 77 percent Christian country, religious minorities such as Jews and Muslims would not feel alienated and excluded even if offered alternative prayer or study groups on the sidelines.

According to PFLAG, (formerly Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) two-thirds of LGBT students report having been sexually harassed in school in the past year, and nearly a fifth of students were physically assaulted because of sexual orientation. Gay teens are more than eight times more likely to have attempted suicide and LGBT teens are over-represented among homeless youth, partly due to family rejection and problems in school.

Christianity, while it offers hope, healing and love to some, is just another schoolyard bully to others. The remedy to bullying will be creating institutions better able to accommodate difference, not imposing homogeneous belief and expression.

Pete Franzen