Wise County Public Schools in Wise, Va., will no longer allow school-sponsored prayer before football games. The prayer was delivered before each home game over the loudspeaker by a member of the clergy.
On Sept. 18, FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter to remind the district that public school sponsored religious messages are illegal and divisive:
“Not only is the District endorsing these prayers by allotting time for them at the start of football games, but it is also providing ministers with the public address system needed to impose these prayers on all students and community members at the football games.”
On Sept. 19, the school’s superintendent informed FFRF that, “We have addressed this issue and will resolve it immediately.” The football game later that day did not include a prayer over the P.A. system.
The Supreme Court has ruled that both clergy-led prayer and school prayer before football games violate the Constitution.
A superintendent in Toledo, Ohio, who utilized the social media site Twitter to promote a religious 2014 “See You at the Pole” event will no longer be permitted to do so.
A complainant contacted FFRF saying that the superintendent posted a message to his Twitter feed on Sept. 24 which read, “Courageous students will be praying at Whitmer’s flagpole at 7am. I will join them, it will be an amazing way to start the dsy [sic]!!” This gathering was presumably part of the annual Christian event, “See You at the Pole.”
The Washington Local Schools website lists a posting for the 2012 Whitmer High School “See You at the Pole” event: “Students, parents, staff and community members are invited to gather to pray for a new school year and for staff, students, parents and communities all across the U.S.A.”
On Sept. 26, FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter of complaint to the district:
“When the district’s employees participate in the religious events of students, they unconstitutionally entangle the District with a religious message. This alienates nonreligious students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
On Oct. 1, an attorney for the district responded: “I have discussed with [the superintendent] the possible appearance of religious endorsement that can arise from both messages and personal participation in certain student activities, and I believe that our discussion will inform his future approaches to his involvement.”