FFRF sues over egregious Georgia school prayer

FFRF filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 9 challenging the infliction of daily prayer on elementary school students in the Emanuel County School System, Swainsboro, Ga.

Defendants include Superintendent Kevin Judy, Swainsboro Primary School Principal Valorie Watkins, teacher Kaytrene Bright and teacher Cel Thompson. Anonymous co-plaintiffs are Jane and John Doe and their young children, Jesse and Jamie Doe.

Before lunch, Jamie’s teacher asked students to bow their heads, fold their hands and pray while Thompson led a call-and-response prayer: “God our Father, we give thanks, for our many blessings. Amen.”

In Jesse’s first-grade class, Bright led students in this daily prayer: “God is great. Let us thank you for our food. Thank you for our daily prayer. Thank you. Amen.”

When parents learned of the prayers in August 2014, they immediately Watkins to object. The teachers responded by telling the Doe children to leave their classrooms and sit in the hallway while the rest of their classes prayed.

“It should not be necessary for FFRF to sue over such an obvious violation of specific Supreme Court decisions barring devotions from our public schools,” noted Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “No child in our secular school system or their parents should be subjected to prayer, or stigmatized when their parents speak up to defend the Establishment Clause. But unfortunately, it appears a lawsuit will be the only way to protect the freedom of conscience of these young children.”

“If anyone needs a picture drawn on how destructive religion is in our public schools, this situation is a perfect example,” added Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president. “The fact that such abusive practices are continuing in our public schools 63 years after the first Supreme Court decision against school prayer shows just how much FFRF’s legal work is still needed.”

FFRF is represented by W.R. Nichols of Atlanta, with FFRF Staff Attorneys Samuel Grover and Andrew Seidel serving as co-counsel.

Freedom From Religion Foundation