Perish the thought of prayer in schools

Ned Cantwell

Wanda and Joe are in a stew as they brood over morning coffee in their modest Las Cruces home. Worry lines crease their faces.
“So, what do you think? Shall we let him go to school this morning,” Wanda wonders?
“Him” is son Bobby, a sophomore at Las Cruces High.
“I’m at wit’s end,” Joe admits. “I don’t know what to do about it.”
“I know what you mean,” Wanda concedes. “The drugs, the sex, all those kids zooming around the streets gabbing on their cell phones and running stop signs.”
“No, no, no,” Joe says, “that’s just normal teen stuff. Nothing wrong with that. What I’m worried about is those darn crosses. They’re still hanging there.”
“You’re kidding!” Wanda exclaims. “Those three crosses are still displayed on the wall of the Sports Activity Complex? I thought they had to take them down. Bobby hangs around that building a lot.”
“Well, those two guys from United for Separation of Church and State are doing their best, but the federal court will have to decide.”
“Are you talking about Jesse Chavez and Paul Weinbaum, the same guys who tried last year to have the three crosses removed from the Las Cruces municipal logo?”
“That’s them,” Joe said. “Great Americans. And they almost did some good. The state transportation department was about to remove the logo replicas from I-25 when Governor Richardson stepped in and said no way.”
“Why are those crosses on the sports complex in the first place,” Wanda asked?
“Oh,” her husband explained, “they are supposed to stand for unity, strength and excellence, but anyone who has a brain in his head knows this is just one more step toward bringing religion into our schools.”
“You can say that again,” Wanda agreed. “The three crosses are just the foot in the door. Before long, the government will allow a moment of silence in classrooms across the country.”
“Don’t even go there!” Joe barked. “I’ve got enough worries without that one. You give these kids a moment of silence and who knows what will happen? Most of them will do OK. They will be thinking what they are going to tell the teacher about the missing homework assignment, or how sexy Clarice looks in her cheerleading outfit. But some of them, some of them, might actually….”
“Pray?” Wanda whispers.
“Pray,” Joe concedes.
They sit in silence for a time, staring into their coffee cups.
“It’s a scary time to bring up kids, honey,” Wanda observes, looking into Joe’s eyes.
“It is,” he says. “We can only do our best. Try to expose them to healthy television shows like Friends and the good stuff they watch on MTV. I kind of like some of those videos myself,” Joe says.
“I’ve noticed,” Wanda nods.
“Joe,” she says, “what if Bobby does go to school today? And what if he walks by the sports complex, looks up at those crosses, and actually starts to think about, I mean, actually think about….”
“Ohhhh myyyyy, G…”
“Stop!” Wanda yells. “Don’t use that word in this house. The children are awake.”

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame.