Arkansas violations get cleared up (November 14, 2017)

FFRF has had prayer struck from a performance at an Arkansas elementary school.

FFRF learned that students at Westside Elementary School in Jonesboro, Ark., were going to perform in a Thanksgiving-themed program with music and poetry. Students were sent home with a list of lyrics to memorize, including one assigned piece featuring a prayer that read:

“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.”

FFRF took swift action to remedy this intermingling of secular schooling and religion. In a letter sent to the school district, FFRF asked that the prayer and any other religious messages be removed from the school’s Thanksgiving performance.

Teaching a prayer to students is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause, and imposing a prayer as part of a holiday celebration is no defense, FFRF contended.

Furthermore, FFRF noted in its letter that inducing young and impressionable children to give thanks to God is a usurpation of parental authority. It is not a public school’s role to direct a child’s religious or nonreligious upbringing — that right is reserved for parents only.

“Such a practice alienates the students, teachers, and members of the community whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school,” wrote FFRF Robert G. Ingersoll Legal Fellow Colin McNamara to Superintendent Scott Gauntt. Gauntt responded promptly, informing FFRF that he had investigated the reported violation and, after finding it to be true, had the prayer removed from the program.

Freedom From Religion Foundation