No need for removal of prayer in schools
There is cruel irony in the call by Social Justice Bermuda for the removal of ”coerced” prayers in public schools. Many of our schools owe their existence to the Church — mainly Anglican.
Let us consider the following:
In 1725, Bishop George Berkeley proposed the construction of an interracial college in Bermuda. After the raising of funds in Britain, this was partially accomplished in 1829 when Devonshire College was built — at the present site of Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.
There were only White students and the college closed within a year of emancipation. The Government later brought the property and the proceeds were to be equally shared for the benefit of Black and White students.
The half for White students was used for Saltus Grammar School shortly after 1880 and the deeds for the property were in the name of Devonshire College Trustees Body No1 — and still may be. The Berkeley Institute got the other half in the mid-1930s.
In 1811, the Reverend J.C. de Passau opened a day school for Blacks in St George’s.
In 1829, Bishop Spencer opened his school for Blacks on Middle Road, Warwick, opposite Price Rite. He also provided land for the Lane School in 1836 — just west of Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. In 1839, he was responsible for Paget Glebe School and Southampton Glebe School on church lands. Additionally, Mount Saint Agnes School and the Bermuda Institute were built during the first half of the 20th century.
In 1892, Bermuda’s AME churches started the Bermuda Collegiate Institute, the first high school for Blacks, which was also a teachers training school. The founders of the Bermuda Union of Teachers were taught there.
Francis Patton School is named after a Bermudian theologian who was president of Princeton University.
It is not unreasonable that these institutions reflect the faith of those who founded and supported them.
Consider also the preschools located on church properties.
I concede that parents reserve the right to determine if their children participate in prayers but SJB has not indicated that it has been approached by parents to advocate in this matter..
Is the matter of prayer the only aspect of the faith to which it objects? What is its position on religious ceremonies such as baptism, marriage, funerals and burial in church graveyards? Does it intend to observe Good Friday, Easter or Christmas?
In the United States, there is separation of church and state, which means there is not a formally established state religion.
In Britain, of which we are a colony, it is quite different whereby Her Majesty the Queen is Head of State and Head of the Church (Fidei Defensor or Defender of the Faith).
I see no need for the removal of prayer and hope the Government agrees.