FFRF gets prayer display removed from Va. school cafeteria

Washington County Public Schools in Virginia has removed a prayerful display after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a complaint letter on behalf of a parent.

The concerned High Point Elementary School parent informed the state/church watchdog that the school prominently displayed a prayer on the wall of the cafeteria: “Lord, We thank you for this food. Bless it to the nourishment of our bodies and us to your service. Amen.” The complainant additionally reported that there were bible verses on display in the main office in 2023.

“To protect students’ First Amendment rights, the district must remove this religious display from its cafeteria immediately, as well as any other religious displays it becomes aware of in its schools,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to district Superintendent Keith Perrigan.

FFRF pointed out that religion is a divisive force in public schools. The religious display needlessly alienated students and families who are non-Christian. A full 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian, including almost 30 percent identifying as nonreligious. Additionally, FFRF reminded the district that at least a third of Generation Z (those born after 1996) have no religion, with a recent survey revealing that almost half of Gen Z qualify as religiously unaffiliated “Nones.”

Thankfully, FFRF’s work to protect the rights of students paid off.

After receiving the letter, Perrigan emailed FFRF to inform it: “All reports were investigated and addressed appropriately.” Upon further inquiry, FFRF confirmed that the display has been removed.

The state/church watchdog is always pleased to see students being freed from religious proselytization.

“School districts exist to educate, not indoctrinate into religion,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says. “Young, impressionable students — who are a captive audience — should never be expected or prodded to engage in religious rituals in our secular public schools.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members across the country, including more than 900 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.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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