FFRF issues second warning to Mobile County Schools over unconstitutional prayer

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is once again calling for an end to unconstitutional prayer at a mandatory staff event in Mobile County Public Schools.

Multiple Mobile County Public Schools staff members have reported that on August 2, all district employees were required to attend an institute “pep rally” to kick off the new school year. As part of the mandatory staff event, a student referred to as “Pastor Jordan” reportedly delivered this Christian prayer:

“Now at this time let us pray. Please bow your heads. Lord as we come before You this morning, we lift up the Mobile County Public School System, asking You to lead, guide, and protect and direct in the way You will have us go. God, You not only grant wisdom to lead us, but You are wisdom Yourself. Continue to bless the Mobile County Public School System in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Holy Spirit, everybody say Amen.”

The prayer was followed by a five-minute-long sermon which included multiple bible verses and sectarian religious messages.

Public schools maintain an obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion, FFRF reminded Mobile County Public Schools in its letter of complaint. FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote to the district urging it to stop violating its employees’ constitutional rights by scheduling prayer at official district-sponsored meetings and events.

“By imposing prayer on its employees at district-sponsored events, the district is violating constitutional limits on government religious endorsement,” Line writes. “These prayers inappropriately alienate non-religious employees and employees who practice a minority religion. Their participation in these mandatory meetings is adversely affected by these prayers, which turn them into outsiders in their workplace.”

FFRF first contacted Mobile County Public Schools about prayer at official district events last summer, when a similar mandatory staff event featured what has been called “a fire and brimstone invocation” by Pastor Vint Norris from the Alabama District of the Assembly of God. After receiving complaints about this inappropriate injection of religious devotions at a staff event, Line sent a complaint letter to the district.

FFRF once again is requesting assurances that this unconstitutional conduct will no longer occur.

“Imposing prayer on a captive audience of public school employees is both unconstitutional and unethical,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The school district must protect the rights of conscience of staff members, as well as students, by upholding more than 65 years of Supreme Court precedent against divisive religion in our public schools.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members in every state across the country, including in Alabama. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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