FFRF prevents Ga. school district from allowing prayer walk

Bremen City Schools in Georgia canceled a prayer walk in an elementary school after FFRF fought to protect students’ First Amendment rights.

A concerned parent reported that the district had planned to allow outside adults to enter Jones Elementary School on April 21 in order to hold a “prayer walk.” Per a post from a local social media group for parents:
Hey Friends! I wanted to see if any of you would be interested in doing a prayer walk through the 3rd-grade classrooms on the Sunday before milestones (April 21st)? I’m a firm believer that prayer is a powerful thing and I would love to cover each classroom, teacher, and student in prayer prior to that week. I emailed [the principal] this morning and he said he would be happy to open the building for us to come that Sunday afternoon.

FFRF was informed that this was not the first time the school had inappropriately blurred the lines between church and state. The complainant stated that they and their family are members of a minority faith and that their child is “constantly being othered in [their] own classroom.” The complainant reported that the school permits students to bully their child by regularly telling their child that they are “going to hell.” The complainant was upset that Jones Elementary was planning to allow outside adults to hold a Christian prayer walk in the school building and include their child’s name in a religious ritual that they do not believe in.

FFRF took action, writing to the district to halt this unconstitutional practice.

“It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism toward or coerce belief or participation in any religion,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote to the district.

By allowing outside adults to host a prayer walk in one of its elementary schools, the district displayed blatant favoritism toward religion over nonreligion. The district serves a diverse population that consists not only of Christian students, families and employees, but also members of minority religions, such as the complainant and their family, as well as atheists, agnostics and those who are simply religiously unaffiliated. As much as 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian, including almost 30 percent who are nonreligious. Additionally, at least a third of Generation Z (those born after 1996) have no religion, with a recent survey revealing almost half of Gen Z qualify as religiously unaffiliated “Nones.”

Thankfully, the district listened to FFRF’s reasoning.

In a letter from Pereira, Kirby, Kinsinger & Nguyen LLP, legal representative for the district Cory O. Kirby informed FFRF that the district had taken action: “The principal has decided not to allow a prayer walk through the school.”

FFRF is always pleased to point a school district in the right direction.

“FFRF is happy that students’ rights will not be violated at Jones Elementary School,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad to continue fighting for state/church separation no matter what form it takes.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) with 40,000 members nationwide, including more than 600 in Georgia. It works to buttress the constitutional separation between state and church.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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