FFRF asks Texas school district to stop imposing prayer at staff meetings

The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the Abilene-Wylie Independent School District in Texas deserves an “F” for its practice of imposing multiple prayers during mandatory staff meetings.

A concerned district employee informed the state/church watchdog that staff were led in prayer several times during mandatory staff meetings on Aug. 7 and 8. During the Aug. 7 meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Tommy Vaughm led staff members in prayer following recitation of the United States and Texas pledges. A second prayer was delivered that day by a financial donor, Ryan Holmes, prior to the lunch break. Additionally, Superintendent Joey Light led staff in prayer at the Aug. 8 meeting while acting in his official capacity.

“It is unconstitutional for a public school district to require employees to observe and participate in prayer as part of a mandatory staff meeting, including a district’s annual staff inservice,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence writes to Light.

Requiring employees, particularly those who are nonreligious or members of minority religions, to make a public showing of being non-Christian by not participating in a prayer or else display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating, FFRF emphasizes. Federal courts have held that trainings and meetings for government employees, such as public school staff, cannot promote religion or coerce employee participation in religious exercise, including prayer. Similarly, a public school district cannot require or encourage employees to observe or participate in multiple prayers as part of a meeting.

FFRF is calling on the district to cease hosting prayer at employee meetings in order to respect the First Amendment rights of all employees.

“Public school employees should not be forced to endure someone else’s religious rituals,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says. “The district deserves an ‘F’ for failing to honor rights of conscience. Our public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate in religion.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,700 members and a chapter in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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