On Prayer

Thomas L Wayburn, Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

– Matthew 6: 5,6

This is the correct text of the letter that was printed incorrectly in The Panther.

Everyone knows that a battle is raging over prayer in the public schools.  The people who would impose their own particular religious preferences upon the rest of us are, for the most part, the same people who, earlier in the century, expressed intolerance of races other than their own.  For this reason and others, which I shall make clear momentarily, I oppose the presence of religious observances, including prayer, on the Prairie View campus.

The Supreme Court of the United States has made it abundantly clear that prayer in the public schools is unconstitutional.  Prairie View A&M University is a public school.  Moreover, each employee, at the time of his or her employment, signed a statement agreeing to support the U.S. and Texas constitutions.  The separation of church and state clause in the Texas constitution is even more specific than the establishment clause in the U.S. constitution:

Article I, Section 7:  No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary, nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.  [emphasis mine]

More important, we have become a multicultural and diverse society.  Many members of our community find prayers - particularly Christian prayers - at school functions embarrassing and humiliating.  They simply don't know what to think when they are asked to "bow their heads".  This is unfair, indecent, illegal, and, as mentioned above, contrary to what we all agreed upon when we joined the Prairie View family.  How can we ask someone to support the Constitution and violate it simultaneously?  Isn't this the height of hypocrisy?

Perhaps the intrusion of prayer onto our public campus might be justified on the basis that "the end justifies the means", but the drawbacks of the Christian faith seem to outweigh the obvious benefits.  Many students behave as though they expect Jesus to do their homework or complete their term projects - judging from the dedications one reads at the beginning of some substandard work.  Finally, let us not forget that it was the Christian missionaries who paved the way for the subsequent colonization and exploitation of Africa.  Despite many notable and admirable exceptions, Christians are still in the vanguard of those who wish to exploit others economically.

Please, President Becton, let us have a clearly stated Prairie View policy prohibiting prayers, hymns, and other religious events on the Prairie View campus as required by law and decency.

Houston, Texas

March 3, 1993


General Becton refused to eliminate prayers from college functions; however he promised that, in the future, the prayers would not be specifically Christian prayers and that religious diversity would be respected, which, of course, is impossible while prayer continues to be a part of the official duties of  faculty, staff, and students.  Moreover, he continued to be in clear violation of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.  Presumably, his successor continues this hypocritical tradition.

Houston, Texas

November 9, 1997