Students at Cassell Elementary School in Virginia will soon move into a new building, and they celebrated the occasion yesterday during a groundbreaking ceremony on the future site. During the mandatory daytime event, however, one speaker directed everyone to pray to Jesus:
During a ground breaking ceremony on the future site of the new Cassell, former teacher Donna Lewis said to students “Let us pray.”
Lewis went on to pray for students, the new school and other people, while referring to “dear Lord” and “heavenly Father,” used by Christians in prayer.
All the while, students had bowed heads.
Of course, District officials are now in damage control mode, distancing themselves from the prayer, acting as if they had no idea it was going to happen:
“Neither the principal nor [Superintendent Eric] Bond directed the speaker to deliver a sectarian message and they were not provided an advance copy of her remarks for review,” the statement said. “The principal and Dr. Bond were not aware before the event began that this invited community member planned to deliver a sectarian message.”
As is often the case, though, I wonder if they just didn’t ask to see an advance copy of her speech so they could later claim plausible deniability. We’ve seen that happen during high school graduations, where school officials tell students speakers they won’t need a copy of their speech ahead of time, essentially giving them a green light to proselytize.
If this were a Muslim or Hindu prayer, maybe more community members would be up in arms, Instead, commenters on local news websites seem to think the focus on the prayer, not the prayer itself, is the problem.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)