Let’s play a game. Can you guess where this picture came from?
If you said church service… you’d be wrong. So very, very wrong.
It’s actually from the beginning-of-the-year mandatory convocation for staffers at McKinney Independent School District in Texas. The event took place at Prestonwood Baptist Church, where the same event has gone on for more than a decade. And that would be Superintendent Rick McDaniel in the suit leading the audience of about 3,000 people in Jesus-centered prayer.
It happens around the 3:40 mark of the video below, just after McDaniel says to the crowd, “I realize that some of you… may not feel comfortable. And I’m alright with that.”
I’m sure he’s alright with it. But the kind of people who foist their Christianity upon everybody else in a public setting aren’t exactly known for their humility.
When the Freedom From Religion Foundation pointed out all the problems with this moment-of-silence-that-was-actually-a-Christian-prayer, the District responded that the church was the only place in town that could hold all these people. But the church itself isn’t the problem. (Though the District should have covered up the cross on the podium so they couldn’t be accused of promoting religion during a school event.)
The problem is that a mandatory event for teachers took place in a Christian church, in a room with a prominent Christian symbol on the podium, with a superintendent who led everybody in Christian prayer.
This shouldn’t be an issue next year, when a new (secular) convention center will open up. But what will the District do about the church/state violation that already occurred? Not much apparently.
Board president Curtis Rippee said he could not discuss any possible punishment for McDaniel, citing personnel reasons. But he said McDaniel has led prayers like this before.
“I think that’s something Dr. McDaniel feels strongly about,” said Rippee, who added that the board did not have an “official position” on the superintendent’s prayer.
They don’t need a position on the prayer, but does anyone seriously think Rippee would say the same thing if McDaniel led the crowd in a prayer to Allah?
Just because he prayed to the God worshiped by the majority of people in that audience doesn’t mean what he did was legal or acceptable. The least the school board could do is reprimand him and insist that the man they hired should follow the law. Apparently, that’s too much to ask.
FFRF hasn’t decided what to do about all this — they’re waiting for an official response from the District — but they said the person who brought this issue to them was an employee, so a lawsuit isn’t out of the question.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)