Tag Archives: school prayer

She’ll Say a Little Prayer for You

In the early 1980s, Philadelphia’s mayor described his city’s council as “the worst legislative body in the free world.”  Aside from his unfortunate omission of legislative bodies in the not-so-free world, he was onto something:  wisdom, intelligence, and talent have never been in great supply on Philadelphia’s city council.  It was a weak council 30 years ago and it’s a weak council today.

It’s also a familiar – and familial – council.  The son of the mayor who made that proclamation now serves on the council, as does the son of that mayor’s predecessor and the son of that same mayor’s successor.  The president of the council, retiring at the end of the year, inherited her council seat from her father the year The Curmudgeon graduated from high school.

Who said primogeniture is dead?

But the relationships don’t end there.  Also on the current council is a member who inherited her position from her husband when he chose to share his family’s special brand of mediocrity (and a really bad toupee) with the United States Congress.  While not especially highly regarded, Jannie Blackwell is not generally considered the typical lightweight Philadelphians elect to represent them in city hall.  Just a few weeks ago, her constituents gave her 89.99 percent of the votes in her bid for a sixth term in office.  Clearly, the councilwoman is doing something right.

Her recent actions, however, suggest that perhaps she wants to fit in better with some of the nonentities who surround her.

Earlier this week, Ms. Blackwell, in her capacity as chairwoman of the council’s education committee, held a hearing on prayer in public schools.

Yes, prayer in public schools.

Apparently, she’s fer it.

“Prayer can promote more virtuous living and may have a positive impact on student behavior in schools,” Blackwell told the gathered, according to a published report.

Aside from being a profoundly bad idea, the councilwoman apparently hasn’t heard that the Supreme Court struck down mandatory prayer in public schools oh, nearly sixty years ago.

Some of the people who testified at the hearing pointed out to her that prayer in Philadelphia’s public schools might not be such a good idea.

“Council chambers and teachers’ desks should not serve as pulpits for religious doctrine,” suggested one witness.  “Are the parents going to decide, or are the teachers, the principal, or City Council, what prayers should be offered?” another asked, hopelessly lost in a grammatical tangle.

And just to show that in Philadelphia they grow their mayoral candidates as dumb as they grow their council members, the candidate defeated overwhelmingly (receiving just 21.63 percent of the votes) in the mayoral election just three weeks ago tossed in her own two cents’ worth – allowing for inflation.

“For years, we have in the school calendar, allowed for breaks for the Christian holidays, as well as the Jewish holidays.  It was part of the school calendar, so how can we say the state and the church are separate?”

Got that?

Although councilwoman Blackwell was interested enough in this issue to invoke her authority as a committee chairwoman to hold a hearing, it appears she hasn’t thought this issue through.  Her committee is not considering legislation to restore prayer to Philadelphia’s public schools and the council as a whole is not considering a bill to restore prayer to Philadelphia’s public schools.  Even if it was, and even if the city’s school district wasn’t controlled by a state takeover board and not Philadelphia’s city council, the current council session ends in a few weeks and the chairwoman hasn’t scheduled another hearing on the issue.

So why did she do it?  Why hold this hearing?

Because she can?  Because she can get her name in the newspaper?  Because she was doing someone a favor?  Because it makes her feel important?

Or maybe because she feels the need to help ensure that Philadelphia’s city council continues to live up to its reputation as the worst legislative body in the free world?

If that’s her intention, let us borrow from a declaration once made by then-President George W. Bush

Mission Accomplished.