The man in the center of the picture below isn’t a pastor. He’s Superintendent Rick McDaniel of the McKinney Independent School District in Texas, and he was leading a prayer inside Prestonwood Baptist Church during a mandatory beginning-of-the-year convocation for staffers.
When the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the District to warn them about the violation of church/state separation, they were told the church was the only place in town that could hold all 3,000 staffers. That didn’t resolve the fact that the superintendent was leading the staff in prayer behind a podium with a cross on it… but FFRF was told the event would likely move to a secular convention center that would be opening up very soon.
It wasn’t just the staff-only event. Graduations were also held at this church for years. If they kept doing that, the District could have been hit with a lawsuit because it was clear Christianity was a part of all of these gatherings.
The 2017 contract stipulated that a Prestonwood minister would give a “brief welcome at the beginning of each graduation.” It also stated that no items, including flowers, could cover or block the view of the cross on the podium.
Thankfully, these problems may be coming to an end. The District has announced that all future ceremonies, including graduations, will take place at the newly built Allen Event Center.
The district will pay about $40,000 to the event center to hold its three graduation ceremonies on June 8. Parents also will have the option to purchase tickets in suites for $25 a seat. That money will go to the event center, not the district, Cunningham said.
That’s the right move. The District said it didn’t fear a lawsuit but wanted to make sure “100 percent of the focus is on the students.” Which sounds very much like they were pressured by the threat of a lawsuit.
The only person who seems to be upset about this is Prestonwood Pastor Jack Graham who will no longer get to proselytize to a captive public school audience.
It appears religious freedom is under attack at the Mckinney Public Schools. It was our refusal to remove the cross from view that created this cowardly decision https://t.co/O9dCurijZq
— Jack Graham (@jackngraham) February 13, 2018
There’s obviously no “religious freedom” under attack. Christians can still go to church. Students can still pray. Prestonwood will still be open.
Jack Graham just equates “religious freedom” with his desire to preach to people who didn’t ask for it. If Muslims ever tried to do that, you know Graham would be crying foul over impending Sharia Law… but it’s always okay when it’s his faith being forced upon everybody. (It’s also okay when his church receives tens of thousands of dollars annually to host the staff event and the graduations.)
The District should send a thank-you card to FFRF for giving them the push they needed to stay on the right side of the law. Too bad they won’t. It’s easier to just paint the atheists are the bad guys.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)