While Republican leaders have refused to discuss yesterday’s two mass killings on CNN—that network’s Jake Tapper noted on-air that all of Texas’s state leaders and U.S. Senators declined invitations to appear on the network—Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick did drop by Fox & Friends to discuss the white supremacist terror attack that killed 20 people at an El Paso Wal-Mart. During that appearance, he blamed the epidemic of massacres on the “fact” that “we won’t let our kids even pray in our schools.”
Patrick is, presumably, referring to the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale—a ruling that declared the establishment of an official school prayer and the encouragement of its recitation to be a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
Of course, there have been numerous subsequent rulings—including the following year’s Abington School District v. Schempp—related to religion in public schools, but look at the exact language Patrick is using. “We won’t let our kids even pray in our schools,” Patrick claims, but that’s not even true. The ACLU itself has defended the rights of students to pray privately or in groups, and the promulgation of the idea prayer in schools is “banned” is a common right-wing hoax.
Mass killings have no relationship to prayer whatsoever, obviously. This is an example of public rhetoric, though, in which focus is given to the rebuttal of an argument before consideration of whether the premise of that argument is itself rooted in bad faith.