FFRF ends prayer at middle school banquet (July 17, 2014)

There will no longer be teacher-led prayer, or any prayer for that matter, at the end of year banquet for Sarah Scott Middle School students in Terre Haute, Ind.

A concerned family member of a student contacted FFRF with information that, in keeping with ceremonies from previous years, a school-sponsored banquet on May 27 celebrating the top ten students in each grade featured a teacher-led invocation.

“Everyone is expected to bow their heads while a teacher leads the prayer,” reported the complainant, who added: “The school is fairly diverse so I’m sure I’m not the only person that is uncomfortable with the school trying to force everyone to pray.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover sent a letter to Superintendent Daniel Tanoos of Vigo County School Corporation on May 30, declaring that, “The District should make certain that teachers in its schools are not unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by encouraging them to engage in prayer. Schoolchildren already feel significant pressure to conform from their peers. They must not be subjected to similar pressure from their teachers, especially on religious questions.”

“Considering the young age of the students, concern over religious coercion and proselytization should be especially high in middle schools,” Grover added.

After a July 8 follow-up inquiry, counsel for the District replied on July 17 that, “the School Corporation has informed each building Principal that teacher-led prayer with students present will cease, as it is prohibited by the Constitution and should not be allowed.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation