The Mesa Public Schools Governing Board in Mesa, Ariz., recently discontinued prayers to start its meetings after a letter from FFRF. But unfortunately it is now reconsidering its decision after several citizens protested the prayers' absence. The prayers were sectarian and included Christian references such as addressing a “Heavenly Father,” or ending with “In Your name Amen.” Students often attend the meetings.
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel first wrote the school board a letter on Oct. 8, on behalf of a local complainant:
“Public school boards may not include prayer as part of their scheduled meetings. Federal courts have struck down school board practices that include this religious ritual. Prayer at public school board meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive.”
Seidel sent a follow-up letter on Jan. 7, 2013 reiterating why governmental prayer is problematic.
The school board is only reconsidering this issue because vocal citizens spoke out for prayer and against our Constitution. That means your opinion count! Please act to ensure the school board hears from you immediately so it does not capitulate to the Religious Right.
If you live in the area and can attend the regular school board meetings, they are generally held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. The next meeting should be Tuesday, Jan. 14. To check whether prayer is officially on the agenda, contact the superintendent at (480)472-0000 on the day of the meeting.
Meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the Board Room, 549 N. Stapley Drive, Mesa.
Contact the Mesa Public School Governing Board:
Or contact individually at:
Mail: Mesa Public Schools Governing Board
63 E. Main St.
Mesa, AZ 85201-7422
Use your own words if possible, or cut and paste wording below.
Calling upon board members and citizens to rise and pray is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular county government. Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers' time. Nonbelievers and religious minorities, particularly students, should not be made to feel like political outsiders in their own community.
PROVOCATIVE QUOTES ABOUT PRAYER:
Even the New Testament Jesus warns against public prayer: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:5-6)
It is best to read the weather forecast before praying for rain. — Mark Twain, “Pudd’nhead Wilson”
Nothing fails like prayer. — Anne Nicol Gaylor (FFRF motto)
Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. — Thomas Paine, “Age of Reason”
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. — Benjamin Franklin, “Works, Vol. VII, p. 506”
Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy. —Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”
Thank you for your help!