FFRF recently asked a Virginia school district to stop praying at school board meetings after a report from a concerned parent.
The Chesapeake Public School Board’s agendas confirmed that its meetings always begin with a scheduled prayer and that these prayers are invariably led by Christian religious leaders. The board chair directs attendees to stand for the invocations.
It is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating for nonreligious citizens to be required to make a public showing of their nonbelief (by not participating) or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their school board members do, FFRF stresses. Nonreligious Americans make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated.
“It is beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as part of its meetings,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to the district’s legal counsel. “This practice violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
“This ostentatiously Christian practice must end,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It presumes to speak for the religious belief of the entirety of the population of the Chesapeake Public Schools — a presumption that is quite certainly false.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in Virginia. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.