A teacher at Chadbourn Elementary School [Columbus County Schools, Tabor City, N.C.] has been ordered to "cease and desist from any prayer time or references to prayer" after the district received a stern letter of complaint from FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert. Markert warned the district against "unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters." Third grade teacher Becky McCleney had instructed students to say this prayer prior to eating lunch:
"Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything."
Dan Strickland, superintendent, had been notified of the violation before FFRF complained, but the pre-meal prayers continued. "Federal courts have struck down prayer in public schools because it constitutes a government-endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," noted Markert, in her Jan. 28 letter. "This is particularly true (and more egregious) when the prayer is delivered and taught to a captive group of impressionable school children as young as eight." An attorney for the school district responded on Feb. 8, 2011: "[W]e are well aware that it is violative of the US Constitution and the various Court cases that have been brought under the principle of Separation of Church and State." He wrote that each year the district's teachers are instructed in the issue, "but being in the 'Bible Belt' it is oftentimes forgotten. We have taken the appropriate measures to address it and will monitor the situation to be sure that it does not occur again." — Bonnie Gutsch