FFRF put a stop to a sectarian prayer in a Texas school district’s in-service training for faculty and staff.
A concerned Frenship Independent School District employee contacted FFRF about the religious invocation. Reportedly, a state legislator also spoke during the in-service training, who claimed that a history teacher in the district must “inform students that their rights come from God, their creator, not the government,” and that “the government serves only to uphold what God put in place.”
“Prayers and religious messages at employee meetings inappropriately alienate district faculty, staff and students who practice a minority religion, as well as those who are part of the almost thirty percent of the American population who are not religious,” FFRF Legal Fellow Samantha Lawrence wrote to Superintendent Michelle McCord. “Their participation in employee meetings is adversely affected by these prayers and religious messages, which turn them into outsiders in their workplace. Additionally, the mandatory nature of in-service training and many other District meetings means that District employees essentially have no choice but to subject themselves to a coercive and offensive religious exercise that violates their right of conscience.”
A response from the district’s legal counsel, David P. Backus, assured FFRF that this violation will not occur in the future.
“Although it was not the superintendent who introduced the invocation, she has reviewed its in-service practice of allowing an invocation during its in-service and determined to cease such activities in the future,” Backus wrote. “The congressman’s remarks were not previously reviewed or approved by the district or its administration. Consequently, the remarks that the congressman made to the teachers were not endorsed in any way by the district.”