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FFRF horrified about prayers galore in Kansas school district

1LiberalThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is aghast about the overabundance of prayers in a Kansas school district.

A concerned parent has informed FFRF that Liberal Unified School District 480 in Liberal, Kan., has regularly incorporated prayers into several school events. This includes:

  • Prayers before girls' soccer games led by a coach-designated student.
  • Prayers after boys' soccer games done in a

1LiberalThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is aghast about the overabundance of prayers in a Kansas school district.

A concerned parent has informed FFRF that Liberal Unified School District 480 in Liberal, Kan., has regularly incorporated prayers into several school events. This includes:

  • Prayers before girls' soccer games led by a coach-designated student.
  • Prayers after boys' soccer games done in a similar fashion as the girls' soccer games.
  • Prayers before kickoff at home football games given over the loudspeaker. Reportedly, students as well as Christian clergymen have led the prayers.
  • An opening prayer regularly scheduled during school board meetings. According to the board's published minutes for this school year, either a board member or local Christian clergymen gives the opening prayer.
  • A designated student reciting a prayer at commencement ceremonies.

"It is unlawful for any school-sponsored event, including graduations and athletic games, to include prayer," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Superintendent Renae Hickert. "The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and school-led prayer in public schools. Even when student-initiated, the Supreme Court has found prayers taking place at school-sponsored events unconstitutional." 

Plus, courts have again and again affirmed that the rights of minorities are protected by the Constitution, FFRF emphasizes. It makes no difference how many people want prayer or wouldn't be offended by prayer at school events, because "fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections," to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state/church watchdog says that it's beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as part of its meetings. Federal courts have struck down school board practices that include this religious ritual. Furthermore, it is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, permitting sectarian prayers at legislative meetings, does not apply to public school board meetings, because school boards are not deliberative legislative bodies.

And the Supreme Court has explicitly disallowed invocations at public school athletic events, even when student-led. Additionally, public school coaches must refrain not only from leading prayers themselves, but also from participating in student prayers, since even such participation is unconstitutional because it implies endorsement.

The Supreme Court has also specifically ruled against prayer at public school graduations. The court has settled this matter: High school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.

FFRF asks that Liberal Unified School District 480 discontinue prayer at all future school-sponsored activities, including athletic events, commencement ceremonies and school board meetings.

"The whole situation is outrageous," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We didn't think it was possible for a school district to be violating the First Amendment in so many different ways."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 27,000 members across the country, including in Kansas. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church.

 

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