Over the past couple weeks, many students at my high school (and others across the country) took their Advanced Placement exams. Because they need absolutely silence — and because we don’t have enough space for all our students to take the more popular tests in a quiet environment — they took certain exams in other locations. One was a local church. I don’t see that as a church/state violation. It’s a rented area that provides both space and silence. I’ve been there for other district events and it’s no big deal. The pastors are pretty good about making sure there’s no proselytizing going on when we’re there.
It’s a different story in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
For the same reasons as my district, Parkview High School held their AP tests at nearby Mountain Park First Baptist church, citing “space and crowding issues.” Nothing wrong with that.
But parents Kerry Kavanaugh and Traci Morris explain what happened when their kids went there to take their tests:
Kavanaugh was in the church parking lot Wednesday as Parkview High School students arrived for their AP tests and were approached by church members for a moment of prayer.
“You’re violating these children’s rights,” said Parkview High School parent Traci Morris.
She said the violation happened twice when her son was offered prayer before his Advanced Placement exams being held at Lilburn’s Mountain Park First Baptist. Morris is a practicing Buddhist.
“I will have to say I was livid because it was a school function, I was not prepared for something like that to happen,” Morris said.
It wasn’t some “generic,” non-denominational prayer, either. It was specifically one “in Jesus’ name,” as you can see in this video. (So take that, Jewish kids.)
At least the pastor apologized on behalf of his congregation, right?
Of course not.
“We never thought that would be an issue. We thought being able to help anybody particularly on a testing [day] would be helpful to them,” said church pastor Richard King.
So I’m sure King would be perfectly fine with someone telling his children, “Jesus isn’t gonna help you. Hope you studied!” moments before they take their AP tests…?
The church members’ prayers aren’t going to help kids improve their scores. If anything, a number of students just had another distraction on a morning they shouldn’t have to deal with any.
A district spokesperson told Kavanaugh she would contact the church again to put a stop to all this…
However on Thursday a student reported to Kavanaugh again that volunteers approached him in the parking lot, and it did not appear any changes had been made.
(via Religion Clause)