The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s objection to daily intercom prayer in a Louisiana elementary school has quickly had the desired effect.
A concerned parent had informed FFRF that Riverbend Elementary School in West Monroe, La., required its students to recite a prayer each day following the Pledge of Allegiance. A different child was reportedly selected every morning to deliver the Pledge and then the prayer over the intercom. The prayer was described as “Student Expression,” but was clearly a prayer and was 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.
FFRF demanded that Riverbend Elementary School immediately cease its daily prayer.
“The First Amendment prohibits a public school from sponsoring prayer, even if officially titled as ‘Student Expression,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the legal counsel for Ouachita Parish Schools. “The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and school-led prayer in public schools.”
FFRF’s message was heard loud and clear — even without an intercom.
“Ouachita Parish Superintendent Don Coker said the situation has been addressed,” states a story in the local newspaper about FFRF’s intervention.
“The principal knows that we won't be reading prayers over the intercom,” the article quotes Coker as saying. “It has actually been handled and dealt with. Now I think they do a moment of silence.”
As Line tells the Monroe News-Star, FFRF is taking a wait-and-see approach, but for now the state/church watchdog is happy that the violation has seemingly ended.
“We’re glad that the parish authorities swiftly responded,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re hoping that the school doesn’t revert to its unconstitutional practices.”
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.