Back in May, the Freedom From Religion Foundation heard that there were prayers taking place during meetings of the Washington County School Board in Utah. They sent a letter and got a response in October from the district’s attorney saying the board had “consulted with legal counsel, reviewed applicable case precedent, and has adjusted its practices accordingly.”
But a few weeks ago, the same board opened up its meeting with a prayer — they called it a “reverence” — around the 0:30 mark of the published audio.
Our Heavenly Father, we are grateful to gather here as school board members and as administration to discuss the needs of our students, and our faculty, and our teachers. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve. We are thankful for the opportunity to be in school and in person so that our children can be better educated. We pray that thy healing impulse will be upon all those that are suffering and that are sick at this time. Bless those that are high in need. Also that Thou will bless them as they go forward. Bless us in our decisions we make today that we will be blessed with wisdom and be able to make wise decisions on everyone’s behalf that we have responsibility for. We are grateful for the blessings of this free land and we pray for these things this day in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sentiment aside, the message is clear: Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other non-Christians are not welcome in this district. Board member Kelly Blake made that clear in his prayer.
The law still prohibits public school board meetings from becoming makeshift churches. Unlike city council meetings, where such prayers are legal as long as non-Christians are also able to deliver them, school boards are different. Kids are involved, after all.
FFRF asks that the Washington County School District immediately refrain from scheduling and conducting prayers as part of school board meetings to uphold the rights of conscience embodied in our First Amendment, starting with the meeting scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“Whether you call it a prayer or a ‘reverence,’ it is still unconstitutional,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “School board members should realize that a continuation of this practice is highly alienating and disrespectful to members of minority faiths and nonbelievers in their community.”
You would think a school board has more important things to worry about and they’d be eager to get to work to provide the best possible education to kids during a pandemic. Instead, these board members think meetings are a place for them to celebrate their God and delay discussing the children.
It’s not just illegal; it’s a waste of time.
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