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FFRF warns against Mississippi school’s prayer walk

1SimpsonCountySchoolDistrictMS

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is advising a Mississippi school to discontinue its unconstitutional religious rituals.

A concerned parent of a student at Mendenhall Jr. High School in Mendenhall, Miss., contacted FFRF to report that the school's principal, Kirby Craft, used a recorded phone message a few days before the start of the school year to invite district families to join him at the school for a "prayer walk." In the message, Craft asked everyone to pray for the upcoming school year. The prayer walk event was also advertised on the school's homepage.

FFRF sent a letter to Simpson County School District Superintendent Greg Paes warning the district against employee participation in religious events, such as prayer walks, which unconstitutionally entangle school personnel with an exclusively religious message.

Time and again, the Supreme Court has struck down teacher or school-led prayer in public schools. Public school teachers and administrators may not lead, direct or ask students to engage in prayer or otherwise endorse religion.

"The district should make certain that its representatives are not unlawfully and inappropriately indoctrinating students in religious matters by encouraging them to engage in prayer during an event designed to blur the lines between religion and the public schools," writes FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover. "Regardless of what his intentions may have been, the reality is that through his actions Principal Craft has alienated students and families who do not subscribe to his personal religion."

FFRF is requesting an investigation and response by the school district outlining the steps it will take to protect the right of conscience of the district's minority religious and nonreligious students and families.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit state/church watchdog with more than 29,000 nonreligious members across the country.

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