Friday, October 21, 2011

Principal Upholds 1st Amendment, Atheists Challenge

After a Jacksonville, Florida elementary school principal announced a community-based prayer event taking place on school grounds outside of class time, the school district is now debating whether or not to acquiesce to the threatening atheists' demands against prayer.
"To me, this is an act of bullying, even domestic terrorism. I took an oath when I joined the military to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I don't think we should give an inch to this group."
-- Clay County School Board member Charles Van Zant Jr.
UPDATE 11/14/11: School boots prayer off property; students gather with pastor across the road (video):

-- From "Florida elementary school hosts flagpole prayer" by Jennifer Hancock, Tampa Humanism & Freethought Examiner 10/13/11

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) announced yesterday that they have asked the Principal of Clay Hill Elementary School in Clay County Florida to end its weekly Prayer Around the Flagpole pray session. According to FFRF Principal Davis used the school newsletter to announce the weekly prayer meeting that he says, is “sponsored by area pastors.”

The announcement makes it clear that these prayer meetings, organized at an elementary school, are political in nature and are part of a movement “to bring back the Holy Bible and Christian prayers to school.” He then goes on to claim that “our prayer around the flagpole gathering are permissible because they are community led and take place outside of class time.”

In their letter the FFRF has asked Principal Davis to cease this “unusually egregious violation of church state separation” and has asked the school district to help resolve this matter.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Florida principal touts school prayer event, irking secularists" by Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times 10/21/11

"Our prayer around the flagpole gatherings are permissible because they are community led and take place outside class time," Davis wrote.

In general, federal courts have allowed prayer in school as long as it is not sponsored by the state -- an attempt to balance the 1st Amendment's "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has made a splash in the Bible Belt recently with billboards promoting a religion-free lifestyle, with messages like "Praise Darwin -- Evolve Beyond Religion," and the holiday-themed "Heathen's Greetings."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Clay principal's memo says First Amendment meant only for Christians" by Topher Sanders, Florida Times-Union 10/20/11

Clay Hill Elementary Principal Larry Davis sent the memo to his 40-member staff last month to let them know about a weekly prayer session that is held near the school’s flagpole and led by a local pastor.

In the memo, Davis quoted from an article by Pastor Steven Andrew, which was published on the website USA Christian Ministries.

“Pastor Steven Andrew states: 'Our children need God back in schools,’ and he is calling Christians nationwide to bring back the Holy Bible and Christian prayer to schools,” the memo said. “The First Amendment was for Christianity, not other religions.”

Despite quoting the article from the Christian Ministries website, Davis told the Times-Union he didn’t believe the First Amendment applied only to Christians.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Morning praying at Clay schools draws atheist group's attention" by Randy Lefko, Clay Today 10/19/11

. . . discussions at the Tuesday, Oct. 18, School Board meeting.

The heated exchanges between School Board member Charles Van Zant Jr., and School Superintendent Ben Wortham came over whether the School Board would respond to an atheist and agnostic group concerned about morning student prayer sessions being held at Clay Hill Elementary School.

Wortham said he would advise any principal that if the prayers are being held at their school to not disrupt the session, but he warned that if the prayers continue, a costly lawsuit might be filed against the district.

School Board attorney Bruce Bickner said the attorney fees alone for such a suit could reach $300,000.

Pastor Ron Baker, of Russell Baptist Church, has been orchestrating the prayers at select schools prior to school starting for nearly 12 of his 30 years in Clay County.

"We are looking at this from two different perspectives and I understand he has to be concerned with the budget," said Baker. "I will continue the prayers until I am forcibly removed or a legal decision has been made."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.