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FFRF keeps prayer out of Fla. school board meetings (March 2024)

FFRF has kept the District School Board of Collier County in Florida from violating the Constitution by preventing them from opening board meetings with prayer. A concerned district parent reported that at the board’s meeting on Sept. 11, 2023, board member Jerry Rutherford presented a proposal to open meetings with a religious prayer, which would replace an existing measure that opens meetings with a moment of silence. FFRF was informed that Rutherford had a history of pushing his personal religious beliefs onto others, and that he had been trying to impose prayer on the school board students and parents since at least 2016. “The board’s current practice of holding a moment of silence allows those who wish to pray to do so without coercing students, staff, and community members into participating,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to Chair Kelly Lichter. FFRF kept in contact with the complainant, who reported in early January that there was good news to the situation. “The school board voted 3-2 against the invocation,” they wrote in an email.