The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning a recent troubling comment that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made about school shootings.
During a debate against Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Friday, Sept. 21, Cruz was asked about school shootings and responded with a debunked, pandering talking point: “There are a lot of things behind it, that have nothing to do with government. They have things to do with things like removing God from the public square.”
As FFRF has pointed out to countless public officials, this lie scapegoats secularism and dodges a very real problem. Politicians typically highlight the 1962 Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale, which ruled that school-sponsored prayers in public schools violate the First Amendment. Many politicians cite this as the point where we “removed God from schools,” blaming this for school shootings ever since. In reality, there were school shootings before that case, dating as far back as public schools themselves, and there was no spike in school shootings immediately following the ruling.
If prayers prevented shootings, we would not expect to see shootings at private Christian schools, and certainly never at Christian churches. Such shootings are, of course, sadly common. Cruz’s remark was particularly tone-deaf given the recent mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., his own state. Like schools, churches are increasingly concerned about the prospect of active shooters, yet politicians never say that church shootings are caused by a variation in prayer frequency during worship services.
Even at public schools, prayers are still commonplace. FFRF Co-President Dan Barker quips, “As long as there are math tests in public schools, there will be prayer.” The Supreme Court has only struck down government-sponsored prayer, not student prayer. And even unconstitutional school-sponsored prayer is still surprisingly common — FFRF receives more than 5,000 complaints per year, many of which involve public schools illegally endorsing prayer.
School shootings are a real-world problem that requires a real-world solution, not a plea for nonexistent supernatural intervention. To his credit, Cruz’s opponent responded by emphasizing that “thoughts and prayers, Senator Cruz, are just not going to cut it anymore.”
Young Americans are less religious than ever, with atheism doubling among Generation Z, and they are demanding real action to stop the school shooting epidemic. To pious politicians whose solution is more prayer, FFRF says: “Get off your knees and get to work!”