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School Prayer Constraints Prompts First Amendment Lawsuit

imagesbannerscp_150x601Reprinted by permission of the Christian Post

By Jennifer Riley|Christian Post Reporter

A Florida school district is being sued for “persistent and widespread” restrictions on religious expression.

Liberty Counsel, a legal group often representing Christians in religious freedom and family cases, filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of two dozen individuals against the Santa Rosa County School District and its Superintendent, Timothy Wyrosdick, for violations of First Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs – which include teachers, students, former students, parents, volunteers and local members of the community – complain that they have been censored, intimidated or harassed by the school district and its partner, the American Civil Liberties Union.

Last year, the school district agreed to a Consent Decree drafted by the ACLU that restricts the practice or promotion of religious expression and activities by students. The decree was adopted after the ACLU sued Santa Rosa schools over the same issue – the right to pray and express religious beliefs in school.

In 2008, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Pace High School Students who alleged that school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events. The Consent Decree was the result of the lawsuit. It prohibits school officials from proselytizing, promoting or endorsing prayers during school functions and organizing school-sponsored religious services.

“Students can no longer say ‘God Bless,’ teachers must hide in closets to pray, parents cannot communicate frankly with teachers, volunteers cannot answer any questions regarding religion, Christian groups cannot rent school facilities for private religious function benefiting students, and pastors are dictated how they can and cannot seat their audience at private, religious baccalaureate services held inside their own houses or worship,” Liberty Counsel said in a statement.

Chaz Riley, senior class president at Milton High School, is one of the plaintiffs in the Liberty Counsel lawsuit. Riley, in a letter to students, wrote “Good luck and God Bless,” but the phrase “God Bless” was removed by school officials because it is prohibited under the Consent Decree. Officials contended it amounts to offering a prayer.

Liberty Counsel denounced the Consent Decree for “obliterat[ing] religious freedom” and making a “mockery of the First Amendment.”

“Freedom fled from Santa Rosa County when the ACLU filed suit,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law. “Liberty Counsel intends to restore freedom and end the intimidation.”

The Santa Rosa County School District, in a statement, expressed frustration at being caught between what it considers two advocacy groups.

Copyright 2009 The Christian Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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7 Responses to “School Prayer Constraints Prompts First Amendment Lawsuit”

  1. “Students can no longer say ‘God Bless,’ teachers must hide in closets to pray, parents cannot communicate frankly with teachers, volunteers cannot answer any questions regarding religion, Christian groups cannot rent school facilities for private religious function benefiting students, and pastors are dictated how they can and cannot seat their audience at private, religious baccalaureate services held inside their own houses or worship,” Liberty Counsel said in a statement.

    This summarizes the logical conclusion when political correctness holds sway, it absolutely stifles the natural and healthy interaction of individuals. What the article does not mention are the “expressions” that PC institutions will allow, and actually mandate, in the name of their own perverted worldview – the open, flagrant sexualization of children, the breaking down of parental authority, radical revision of history, the normalization of homosexuality, etc. These are the two sides of the coin of political correctness: suppress and punish that which has historically and rationally been considered good and healthy, and promote the perverted and loony.

  2. I think the last sentence is quite telling in that the Santa Rosa school district laments getting caught between two legal advocacy groups( Liberty Counsel, ACLU) duking it out over first amwnedment rights.They have their own agendas.

    But the first amendment issue aside because communicating with God is more important, I don't believe Jesus ever advocated 'praying' where it might not be wanted by others. He advocated that followers spread the word, but did not advocate open prayer in public. I am not sure He ever prayed publicly and usually went elsewhere like the mountains to pray.

    Even on the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus said be not like the hypocrites in the synagogues and openly pray but ” enter into thou closet/chamber and shut the door and pray to the Father in secret ' paraphrased. So while I understand the first amendment issues, why would Christians feel this need to push for open prayer in school when praying is the private conservation between a person and God according to Mathew 6:6

    I know the circumstances were different because Jesus was referring to the hypocrties in the synagogogues, but none-the-less the take home message is and He makes it quite clear that when you pray, do it privately , be not like the hypocrites,and that will serve the purpose of prayer, for the Father will hear you.

  3. Whether people want you to pray is largely irrelevant. Jesus said not to pray purely for show, and he prayed both privately and publicly.

    At the same time, the state has no authority to forbid prayer or other religious expressions, though evil has always tried to silence God's people. From Daniel punished for praying to God, to Rome punishing Christians for their allegiance to God, to today's perversion of the First Amendment as this guarantee of the right of religious expression is actually used to quash religious expression.

    How much zeal the school has for either side of the issue, I don't know but they are definitely between two advocacies: one that wants to secularize our country and quash religious expression, and one that is determined to defend our God-given and Constitutional liberty of religious expression.

  4. Again I understand the 1st Amendment issue, but was trying to look at it from a purely Christian, Biblical viewpoint. Why would the Christian feel the need to pray publicly or demand the right to pray (from a pure Biblical standpoint) at a school, when Jesus himself says or seems to say that private prayer will serve ALL the purposes of prayer and that is communication with God.

    From a pure Biblical view, why not just pray privately if it serves ALL the purposes of prayer and Jesus says it does as well. The Bible doesn't seem to feel lack of public prayer is an issue at all. If the Bible doesn't think public prayer is an issue, why would a Christian

    Again I am looking at this from the purely Biblical perspective.

  5. As I pointed out before, some prayer is private, some prayer is public and even publicly corporate. Jesus admonished us not to pray for show as the Pharisees did. It's not about location but about attitude and motive.

  6. Think I got it ! Was just curious if this is more a 1st Amendment issue or a religious one to you, but see it is both and I respect that.