Sunday, May 19, 2013

Humanists Threaten Missouri School over Prayer

After a lone student at Fayette (Missouri) High School posted an alert on the American Humanist Association (AHA) website that a single teacher, Gwen Pope (who is retiring within days), allowed students to freely enter her classroom before school hours on Fridays to pray, the atheist organization put the school on notice that it, as well as individual teachers/employees, would be sued if the prayer sessions do not stop.
“Teachers simply cannot participate in prayers with students at school, nor can they promote their religious beliefs in any other way to their students.”
-- AHA Appignani Humanist Legal Center
For background, read Missouri Votes to Bring Prayer Back to School as well as Atheists Threaten to Sue Every School in Mississippi

UPDATE 12/29/13: New School Superintendent Says Prayer Will Continue Despite Lawsuit (see article excerpts below)

Also read about laws to bring prayer to schools in Texas, and Louisiana, and North Carolina, and Mississippi, and Florida, and Tennessee.

-- From "Humanist group demands end to teacher-led prayers at Fayette High School" by Kellie Kotraba, KBIA (NPR) Univ. of Missouri 5/16/13

"The big concern here is that we have a teacher using her governmental position to promote her religous beliefs to public school students," said William Burgess, the director of the legal center for the American Humanist Association. He said this goes against separation of church and state, as the public school is part of the state system.

According to the [AHA] letter, the school could be sued in federal court. Principals and teachers might also be subject to lawsuits. The center has asked the school to stop the activity immediately. As of Thursday afternoon, Burgess said the American Humanist Association hadn't heard back from the school.

Principal Darren Rapert said the school has no comment at this time – Superintendent Jim Judd, who acts as the spokesperson, was out of the district for the day.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Humanists Demand an End to Teacher-Led Prayer Sessions at Missouri High School" by the American Humanist Association 5/16/13

“Students are encouraged to attend these sessions by an announcement made by the principal over the school’s intercom system,” the [AHA] letter states. “These public school prayer sessions are clearly unconstitutional.”

As well as conducting prayer sessions on school grounds during the school day, Mrs. Pope also “prominently displays Christian literature on her desk,” the letter reveals, also a constitutional violation.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center, representing a student at the school, has asked that school officials “terminate this and any similar illegal activity immediately.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Humanists threaten to sue Missouri school officials over teacher-led prayer meetings" by Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story 5/16/13

Burgess [said] that while math teacher Gwen Pope‘s weekly devotionals at Fayette High School appear voluntary, between “both the teacher promoting this practice to students and the principal announcing it, I think it’s fair to say the school is putting this on… This is so unconstitutional that they have to know it is, but they’re doing it anyway.”

The letter says that not only could the district and school face legal action, but so too could Pope and the school’s principal, Darren Rapert, for their individual roles in allegedly violating the Establishment Clause, which blocks laws establishing an official state religion and bars government employees from promoting or participating in religious activities while on the job. The letter also claims Mrs. Pope displays a Bible on her desk while teaching class.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE 12/29/13: "Prayer sessions at Fayette High School continue as district answers complaint" by Catherine Martin, Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune

Fayette R-III Schools Superintendent Tamara Kimball said weekly before-school prayer sessions are still being held at Fayette High School, despite a legal complaint filed against the district last month [by the American Humanist Association] claiming the sessions were unconstitutional.

But even with all the attention brought to the issue, Kimball said district administrators have not contemplated ending the Friday morning devotionals, which are led by the Fayette chapter of the national organization Fellowship of Christian Students.

"The question would be, 'Why?' " she said. "If we've done something wrong and we need to do something different, we would certainly be open to that … but to end something for the sake of ending something with no real reason is not how we operate."

Christian clubs are relatively common at high schools, she said, and the school also offers most clubs typically offered in high schools. She said one of the [complaining] students involved was even given permission to start an atheist club but did not act on it.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

The root issue is American Religious Liberty vs. Anti-Christian Totalitarianism