Atheist group faces backlash over attempt to ban school prayer in MS
A national organization is urging Mississippi public school districts to stop student-initiated prayer at school-sponsored events. The Freedom From Religion Foundation recently sent letters to all superintendents, raising concerns about prayers at football games and graduation.
The letter points to several U.S. Supreme Court rulings that said permitting student-led prayer at school events violates the First Amendment. After receiving the notice, the Jackson County School District drafted a policy that addresses student speech.
For years, it’s been a pre-game ritual in Jackson County. Students and even pastors have paused to pray before football games and graduation ceremonies at East Central, Vancleave and St. Martin High Schools. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation says those prayers are illegal.
“We received a letter back in the fall. They put us on notice. At that time, we started looking at what was actually legal or not legal because we hadn’t received complaints from our community in any way,” said Dr. Barry Amacker, Jackson County Schools Superintendent.
The organization cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found pre-game invocations, even student-initiated ones, are unconstitutional. And it said the High Court has struck down prayers at public school graduations.
With graduation fast approaching, the Jackson County School Board decided to draft a student speech policy. That policy would allow the senior class to pick a student speaker. That speaker can deliver a two-minute message before and after the ceremony. However, the content cannot be slanderous or vulgar.
“If a student chose to pray, make it part of the thing, that would be OK. But we would not be able to dictate it or encourage it or endorse it in any way,” said Amacker.
So in other words he’s saying if a student wants to say a prayer at part of a graduation speech at a public school that’s ok, but school officials can’t make it a requirement.
The article continues:
The policy does not address prayers at sporting events. The board wanted to wait until state lawmakers act on a bill that addresses voluntary expressions of religious viewpoints by students. That House Bill died this week.
Dr. Amacker says the Jackson County School Board will now have to figure out what to do about prayer before football games and other school-related events.
“We are determined to be in compliance with the law,” he said. “At the same time, we want to respect our students’ individual rights to freedom of speech.”
The Jackson County School Board is expected to vote on the graduation policy at its April 16 meeting. The Freedom From Religion Foundation also sent letters to nearly 400 school districts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky.
So where’s the backlash? Well, you can easily find it in the article comments, virtually all of which are coming out in support of prayer and religion:
All it takes is one non-moral activist group to stop people from doing what they believe in. Even though the activist group is in the minority. The majority that do believe in prayer at these events needs to flood their legislators with calls and emails demanding to keep their rights or they will vote out the legislators.
Whatever happened to freedomn of religion? Our first amendment right!
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” Correct me if I am wrong…But doesn’t the 1st amendment grant us freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to peacefully assemble? How is praying before a sporting event or graduation or any other school function violating the first amendment? Praying is not establishing an official religion! Nor is it favoring/unfavoring one religion over another. If you don’t want to participate, then don’t!
What is going on in this country when they don’t want christian prayer in schools, but allow muslim prayer rooms in schools in this country. It is time for christians to stand up and be counted. This country was founded on christian principles and if you don’t like it would you pick a place on the world map that supports your way of thinking and leave here.
USA was founded on belief in God so if you don’t like it - go to ****.
your religious expression need not extend any further than the tip of your nose or your belly, which ever one exceeds the other. keep your spiritual hysteria to yourself.
Note: This is the only dissenting comment and it has 9 dislikes
This is a major part in the downward spiral of America. Rufus is absolutly right; If you don’t like it, don’t participate.Welcome to the new “United States of the Offended”….
Here the judges are letting the few rule the laws for the masses (and thats not right). If you don’t like the prayers just put your fingers in your ears.
We need to start our own organization called The Freedom From the Freedom of Religion Foundation!
If they are not Mississippians, then they need to leave us alone. They are doing this all over the country and I knew it was only a matter of time before they came here. I hope that Mississippians stand up to them.
Just one more reason to get your kids out of failing, liberal government schools.
I’m a Christian, most people around here know that, and I don’t agree with required or mandated prayer in public schools. If some students want to pray with one another, fine. If the football players want to pray before a game, fine…SO long as any who wishes to abstain from doing so is allowed without any repercussions whatsoever.
Interesting how the article notes the sports teams often pray with pastors before the games. I wonder how many other states have pastors at public school football games?
I have freedom of religion. I also have the freedom to not cram my religion down someone else’s throat.
I believe that public schooling should be about the basics: Reading, writing, math, science. Religious studies are fine, but keep them to Sunday School or Home studies or Private schools.