Officials Ordered to Stop Prayer in Florida Schools

January 14, 2009 at 5:45 am 1 comment

A federal judge has ordered the Santa Rosa County School District to stop promoting religion and prayer in the classroom and at school events.

U.S. District Court Judge Casey Rodgers ruled Friday after school officials admitted allegations in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU sued the district, Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and former Superintendent John Rogers on behalf of two unnamed Pace High students.
Rodgers’ order prohibits employees from:
  • Promoting prayer at school-sponsored events, including graduation.
  • Planning or financing religious baccalaureate services.
  • Promoting religious beliefs to students in class or during school-sponsored events and activities.
  • olding school-sponsored events at churches.
“We are pleased with Friday’s decision, and we look forward to working with the defendants and the court to bring the School District in line permanently with the First Amendment,” said attorney James Stevenson of the Florida ACLU’s Northwest Regional office.
Allegations admitted
Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick declined to comment on the case. But school and district officials have admitted to the allegations filed by the ACLU.
“The district will continue to work on policies relating to issues of religion in the schools, a process that began well before the lawsuit was filed,” he said in a news release.
On Dec. 15, 2008, the School Board, the superintendent and the Pace High School principal filed an “Admission of Liability” with the Court regarding districtwide constitutional violations.
Among the First Amendment violations listed in the ACLU suit:
  • ¬†Elementary graduations and middle school Christmas concerts held at churches.
  • ¬†Teachers and staff at Pace High School preaching about “Judgment Day with the Lord.”
  • ¬†Teachers and staff offering Bible readings and biblical interpretations during student meetings.
Policies reviewed
The lawsuit said the two Pace High School students are offended by the district’s support of prayer at school events — including graduation — because it promotes religious beliefs they do not subscribe to and fails to respect their religious choices and beliefs.
“The students were relieved the court upheld their First Amendment rights in December, and school officials would not be allowed to subject them to others’ religious views,” said Brandon Hensler, ACLU of Florida director of communications.
Pace resident Tammy Morgan said she understands people have their beliefs. But, she said people do not have to participate when someone is praying.
“I’ve always loved that we could pray at school,” she said. “(The injunction) saddens me. It’s a shame.”
The district permits moments of silence at school and school-related events.
Wyrosdick said officials will continue to review student rights policies and ensure religion is neither prohibited nor promoted according to state law.
“We believe this course of action will permit us to retain what we legally can, reduce legal expenses during this time of financial crisis and permit our personnel to focus solely on the education of our students,” he said.

Entry filed under: Christian, Education, National. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Miss Doris Sanders  |  January 14, 2009 at 5:56 am

    I think this is so sad that we can’t praise God in school. We need him everyday in our lives Jesus preached his word everywhere and how he died for us to be free from the devil. We still do not appreciate him for that what kind of people are we becoming. We need to pray everyday just look at the world today. Our youth are the ones who are suffering the hardest. They are lead astray by temptation everyday with young teen pregrancy, violence, and jail. If we don’t teach them to pray not only in church, how can they ever believe in God without the help from others such as school. School is not only an education system it is design to teach not only history, math, and science. It is design to educate students and the Bible is about learning a learning process from God.


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