Thursday, April 01, 2010

Florida Battles ACLU over Prayer in School

As the Florida Legislature considers a measure to allow teachers to pray with students, Christian legal advocates fight the ACLU in court over a decree that essentially forces teachers to pray in the closet.

UPDATE 10/21/10: Court battle continues

-- From "Battle over school prayer heats up in Florida Legislature" by Cristina Silva, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau 3/18/10

After hours of sweat-stained athletic camaraderie, Pace High School coach Mickey Lindsey must walk away from his players the moment they start to pray.

"I believe in a family atmosphere and for me to have to walk away from my kids when they want to lead a prayer, this is me turning my back on them," he said. "That is not family."

The controversial religious ban enforced by the Santa Rosa County School District last summer has incited national debate over religious freedom and constitutional protections.

Now, the battle has come to the Florida Legislature, where the House PreK-12 Policy Committee approved a measure Wednesday that would allow teachers to pray with public school students.

Citing the conflict in Santa Rosa County, lawmakers said students should be allowed to pray at school. The proposed law would prohibit school boards from banning or censoring "inspirational" messages at voluntary events and would protect teachers who bow their heads during student-led prayers.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "School prayer: Judge asked to reconsider ruling" by Katie Tammen, Florida Freedom Newspapers 4/1/10

The school prayer debate will take place in more locations than just the Florida Legislature next month.

Even though a year has passed since the Santa Rosa County School District signed a consent decree accepting liability for promoting religion in schools, legal questions still abound.

The Liberty Counsel, on behalf of the Christian Educators Association International, recently filed a motion for reconsideration after a federal judge in February denied its motion to intervene on behalf of local educators.

The motion for reconsideration, which was recognized by U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers on Monday, will require the American Civil Liberties Union to provide the court with a status update on the two Pace High School students the agency represented on a 2008 lawsuit that led to the consent decree.

“If these students are no longer in school, this case is moot and that means it has no continuing validity,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver. “If the court ultimately finds that it’s moot, then the case is over, and that means that our concern has been alleviated because the order would have to be vacated.”

The Liberty Counsel also has filed a notice of appeal with the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta on Rodger’s ruling on the motion to intervene.

The Liberty Counsel also is pursuing the issue on a third front. After Rodgers denied its motion to intervene at the end of February, Staver said the Liberty Counsel would sue the school district directly for signing the consent decree in the first place.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge to ACLU: Where are plaintiffs?" by Bob Unruh © 2010 WorldNetDaily 3/31/10

According to Liberty Counsel, school officials are strictly prohibited from showing agreement with anyone "communicating with a deity," such as "bowing the head" or "folding hands." "School officials" must also prohibit "third-parties" from praying, Liberty Counsel said.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers now has ordered that the participants "shall submit memoranda to the court by the close of business on April 7, 2010, advising the court on the status of the named plaintiffs' continued interest in this litigation, the continued validity of the injunctive consent decree, and the basis for this court's continued enforcement jurisdiction over the consent decree."

The plaintiffs have always been identified only as "Minor I Doe" and "Minor II Doe."

"It has been brought to the court's attention that the two plaintiffs may have graduated from high school and thus no longer suffer a threat of harm from the school board's policies and practices," the judge warned.

This, he said, "raises questions regarding the court's continued enforcement jurisdiction over the decree as well as the validity of the continuing nature of the injunctive relief provided by the consent decree. This case was not a class action. Even though the plaintiffs prevailed on the merits of their cause oef action … if the named plaintiffs no longer have a continuing interest in the suit, there is a genuine issue regarding mootness … which must be addressed."

Liberty Counsel's report said, "The ACLU’s conspiracy is now unraveling. Liberty Counsel raised the issue of mootness last year and then again in the motion earlier this year. The federal court that entered the consent decree, which has literally forced teachers and staff to hide in closets to pray, has now demanded an explanation from the ACLU and the school district as to why it should continue to enforce that consent decree."

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, "The errors in judgment by the ACLU and the school district are stunning. The school district agreed to enter into an unconstitutional consent decree that was legally effective for less than one month, then agreed to pay the ACLU a whopping $200,000, and then expended a great deal of additional resources to oppose Liberty Counsel’s intervention and defend the unconstitutional and moot consent decree.

"From the beginning, our position has been that this order should be set aside. We will not rest until that happens. If the school board does not come to its senses and seize the opportunity before it to make things right, the voters of Santa Rosa County will hold them accountable in the next election."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.