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Missouri district to remove divisive prayers (March 2024)

The Independence School District in Missouri had to be reminded by the FFRF that prayer during school assemblies is a constitutional violation. A district parent reported that the Nov. 12, 2022, Truman High School Veteran’s Day assembly included a prayer led by an ROTC student who began the invocation with “Let us pray.” The complainant stated that they spoke with the high school’s principal and were assured that a prayer would not happen at future Veterans Day assemblies. Unfortunately, the Truman High School’s 2023 assembly again included a prayer led by an ROTC student. “Students have the First Amendment right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools, including when participating in school-sponsored events,” FFRF Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote. In response, J. Drew Marriott, legal counsel for the school, wrote to FFRF, confirming the district would not violate student rights any longer. “The district has taken steps to remind district staff of the district’s policies, including the requirement that staff avoid the promotion of religious views at school and that, to the extent that student speeches may include religious conduct, district staff are required by policy to state, orally, in writing, or both, that the student’s public speech does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the district,” Marriott wrote.