William Holmes McGuffey is the author of the McGuffey Reader, which was used for over 100 years in our public schools with over 125 million copies sold until it was stopped in 1963. President Lincoln called him the “Schoolmaster of the Nation.” Listen to these word of Mr. McGuffey:
“The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our nation, on the character of God, on the great moral Governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free Institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred Scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible, I make no apology.”
MERCER COUNTY, Illinois – Leaders in one community’s school district will turn to guidance from a higher power as they forge ahead with their first consolidated school year. The Mercer County School Board agreed to hold a prayer before their meetings. The Westmer and Aledo School Districts joined forces this year. When the discussion of prayer is connected to any school function it is often met with heated debate but as News 8’s Chris Williams learned people in Mercer County District 404 don’t seem to mind their leaders asking for heavenly guidance.
On a chilly President’s Day school is in session in Mercer County, they recognized the holiday last Friday. Today it was back to work for folks like Superintendent Alan Boucher. Boucher and the school board have had a full agenda with the consolidation and combining the traditions of two communities. Last week a local minister asked whether the board should pray before their meetings.
“We did look into legal counsel to see what they would have to say about the issue and they said it is permissible as long as the prayer is non-sectarian and as longs as the board does not favor one religion over another”, said Superintendent Alan Boucher.
An organization of local ministers will now take turns leading that prayer. We asked around to see what residents thought about the idea that has drawn heated debate in some communities but everyone we spoke with here said they supported the idea. It may have been hard to find someone here who disagreed with the issue because the board that used to oversee the Aledo School District traditionally held a prayer before their meetings.
“The board is interested in following the law”, insisted Boucher. “They’re not seeking to break the law in any way and they it’s a practice that has been present in the prior district, the prior Aledo District and I just think they don’t think it was a big deal.”
I asked Superintendent Boucher whether there was any concern that this idea opens the door to religious leaders and views the board may not have considered when making their decision. Boucher told me, if things don’t go well they can always consider discontinuing the practice at any time.
The board has a special meeting this week. Their first regularly scheduled meeting since the decision is next Wednesday. Mercer County School District 404 serves about 1,500 students in Mercer, Rock Island and Henderson Counties. The district’s headquarters is in Aledo. The five Mercer County Schools are in Aledo, Joy and New Boston. Children from Keithsburg, Eliza, Hamlet, Seaton and Millersburg also attend the schools.