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'Proactive Versus Reactive': Pastors Seek Student-led Prayer in Public Schools


The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has activists and legislators pushing for solutions in areas ranging from gun control to mental health.

Two Virginia pastors are seeking a more spiritual solution: they'd like to see prayer put back in school, and they're starting a petition drive to make that happen.

"(We) see that there are so many attempts right now to answer the question of why these shootings are occurring and why our children are being slaughtered in the manner that they are," Pastor Orlando Goodhope of Chesapeake Christian Center told CBN News. "We know there is a holistic approach that we must take."

While gun laws and mental health issues must be considered, "we are spiritual people," he said. "We understand that it all starts in the spirit world, so we're asking that the spiritual aspect be addressed, as well."

Dr. Ervin Scott, pastor of The New Rose of Sharon Elim Baptist Church in Chesapeake is partnering with Goodhope.

"I think prayer would help in school; first of all, it would bring unity back to our communities," he said. "It would bring unity back to our homes, and (as a) matter of fact, it would bring unity even back to our country. I believe that a family that prays together stays together."

In a landmark case in 1962, the US Supreme Court decided in Engel v. Vitale that school-sponsored nondenominational prayer in public schools went against the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The pastors are not calling for teacher-sponsored prayer, and their proposed prayer time would be open to students of all faiths to pray prayers of protection.

"What we're asking is that there would be a designated time set aside for prayer for our students in school," Goodhope explained. "We just want to designate that time for those children who want to. This is not being forced upon; this is not something that has to be scripted."

Creating a time that's set aside for prayer is "proactive versus reactive," he said, noting that prayer vigils take place after shootings in the very places prayer is not allowed. 

The petition states, "...the question is why does a child have to die before we even start talking about prayer? Why don't we have school-sponsored prayer time BEFORE these shootings occur?"  

Scott said prayer might even prevent school shootings.

"I would suggest strongly that prayer would bring a conscious to wrongness before the action actually take(s) place," he told CBN News. "Prayer has a way in bringing us back into unity, bringing us back under subjection to the extent that we'll be able to distinguish right from wrong before the action even take(s) place."

The pastors are asking people to follow four steps to get prayer back in schools: sign a petition, contact their legislators, have their churches organize prayer marches around schools and share the idea of prayer legally being allowed in schools.

"I believe that the churches should come together and begin to fast again," Scott said. "And the reality of fasting will help us to understand the nature that we are dealing with."

Goodhope wants awareness of our spiritual heritage to be brought back to the United States through the petition drive.

"That we are a praying nation; we were founded on prayer; that's what kept us through the dark hours of our country's history," he shared. "And we are now approaching those dark hours again. We can see it every day."

"And we need to have some kind of a guidance, and prayer brings that guidance," Goodhope said.

Goodhope says the petition needs 100,000 signatures for the White House to review it. Those who are interested in participating should email their first and last name to [email protected].

You can also contact Goodhope at Chesapeake Christian Center.

Click the player above to watch the CBN News interview. 

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