Immediately halt the imposition of prayer on your students, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking a Louisiana school parish.
A concerned parent has informed the state/church watchdog that Riverbend Elementary School in West Monroe, La., requires its students to recite a prayer each day following the Pledge of Allegiance. A different child is reportedly selected every morning to deliver the Pledge and then the prayer over the intercom. The prayer is described as “Student Expression,” but is clearly a prayer and is delivered to “Father God”:
Come be with us today.
Fill our Hearts with joy.
Fill our minds with learning.
Fill our classrooms with peace.
Fill our lessons with fun.
Fill our friendships with kindness.
Fill Riverbend Elementary with love.
Ouachita Parish Schools must ensure that Riverbend Elementary School ceases its daily prayer immediately, FFRF is demanding.
“The First Amendment prohibits a public school from sponsoring prayer, even if officially titled as ‘Student Expression,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to the parish’s legal counsel. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and school-led prayer in public schools.” L
Even if a prayer is student-led, the Supreme Court found that prayers at a “regularly scheduled school-sponsored function conducted on school property” would lead an objective observer to perceive it as state endorsement of religion, FFRF adds. This case is more egregious because Riverbend Elementary School is hosting prayer in an elementary school during the school day when all students and employees are required to be present.
Sponsoring a religious message alienates non-Christian students, employees and families whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted, including the almost 30 percent of Americans who are nonreligious, FFRF emphasizes. That’s why a public school must not broadcast a religious message to a captive student audience, or require students to read religious messages.
“A daily morning prayer is clearly an imposition on all of the students in a school,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.
FFRF is asking to be formally informed about the actions the school system is taking to remedy the violation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state and educate on matters of nontheism. FFRF currently has more than 36,000 members across the country, including many members in Louisiana.