Getting pushier and more ridiculous day by day, the seemingly confused Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF – the same group which harassed Yakima’s City Council on the issue of prayer), sent a letter to the superintendent of a Mississippi school district demanding that staff be prohibited from ever again organizing as citizens or even participating in private prayer gatherings with other members of the community.
According to FFRF, “No public school employee may urge religious points on students, parents, or any ‘supporters’ of the school district including stressing the importance of prayer.”
The letter was sent in response to an event which had taken place on a July Sunday outside the Pascagoula High School’s main building entrance and held at the request of Principal Al Sparkman. Participating in the voluntary event were community members, parents, students, school staff, and faculty as they prayed for the school in its upcoming year. The meeting was not a school-sponsored event.
Sparkman had spoken about difficulties faced by students and then participated in prayer with other concerned members of the community.
FFRF may think Sparkman was overstepping his dutiful boundaries, but Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Jeremy Tedesco explained otherwise.
“This situation would be no different from Principal Sparkman teaching a Sunday school class at a church that rented school facilities for its Sunday services. In both situations, Principal Sparkman is acting in his personal capacity as a citizen and has the same right to express his religious beliefs as any other citizen.”
Do you suppose the FFRF knows that but also knows that school districts often cave in to threats from organizations such as theirs because schools do not have money to pay for litigation?
Money or not, the ADF will handle the FFRF for the school without charge. David Cortman, Senior Counsel for ADF, wrote to school officials about the FFRF’s “erroneous claims”:
“The Supreme Court has recognized that ‘there is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect. Applying this principle, courts have repeatedly held that a school’s faculty and staff have the constitutional right to participate in community-sponsored religious activities before and after their contracted work times because their participation is constitutionally protected private speech.”
“Public school principals, teachers, and staff members should not be threatened for exercising their constitutionally protected right to organize and participate in private, religious events in their personal capacities. Contrary to what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is arguing, this is not a government establishment of religion by any stretch of the imagination, except theirs.”
In short, school staff are entitled to a private life with constitutional protections just like any other U.S. citizen. As such, they can participate in religious activity. However, so that groups such as the FFRF do not get confused in the future, the ADF advises administrators, teachers, and staff who participate in religious activity to:
“clearly indicate that they are participating in their capacities as private citizens and not as employees or representatives of the Pascagoula School District. Doing so will allow District faculty and staff to freely exercise their right to religious freedom while preventing any confusion among parents or students over whether the employee is acting in his or her private capacity as a citizen.” (Source)
Undaunted, FFRF continues on in their quest to protect citizens in America from seeing or hearing any inappropriate religious influences concocted by the “evangelical extreme right.”
Note: Seeing as how most Americans still identify as Christians, it is absurd to call everyone who prays part of the “evangelical extreme right.” It is actually the atheists who are out of the mainstream and toward the extreme left.
Atheist group attacks Mississippi prayer meeting
Principal pushed school prayer
Interesting poll from CNN “The CNN poll also found that 62 percent say that American society has strayed too far from its religious foundation in the past 50 years, while answers were split almost evenly on religion as a factor in government policy. Forty-five percent said religion should have no influence on government decisions, while 36 percent say it should have some influence, but not the major factor.”