FFRF warns Tennessee school not to pray over P.A.


The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is insisting that a public Tennessee high school end its unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

It was reported by multiple community members to FFRF that Wayne County High School broadcasts prayer over its public announcement system to students during the morning announcements. A video posted on the Tennessee River Valley News Facebook page on March 23 shows a student leading a prayer over the P.A. system with the caption, “How Fridays begins at Wayne County High School in Tennessee.”

She went on to pray:

Good morning and let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, I just want to thank you for this day that you’ve given us, Lord. And Lord, I want to thank you for the protection that you continue to put over our school, God. And Lord, I just thank you for our teachers and our principals and every student that you have here, God. And let us just remember that you’re always with us and by our side throughout the school day, God. Dear Lord, I just ask you to let us be safe over spring break and come back safely back to school, God. I thank you for our country and I ask you to continue to keep us safe here, God, and let us just remember to make decisions that go towards you, Lord. And Lord, I thank you for your son who died on a cross for our sins, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

FFRF sent a letter to the school requesting that it immediately end its practice of broadcasting prayers during its morning announcements, pointing out that opening each school day with a religious ritual is illegal within a public school district.

“Beyond these legal considerations, avoiding the perception of religious endorsement by the school district protects the district’s religiously diverse young students,” writes FFRF Legal Fellow Christopher Line. “When a district promotes religion over nonreligion, and in this case Christianity over all other faiths, to impressionable students, it alienates those non-Christian students whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted.”

FFRF emphasizes that school administrators are free to pray on their own time and in their own way, but a public school cannot legally transmit a decidedly religious message to a captive student audience, which ostracizes students who are non-Christian or nonreligious. Today, nearly half of young Americans are non-Christian. And recent studies show that the nonreligious are growing, especially among younger Americans.

“Invoking religion, especially in the public schools, is inherently divisive,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Prayer has no place in a state-run educational environment.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 32,000 members and 20 chapters across the country, including hundreds of members in Tennessee and a chapter, FFRF East Tennessee. Its 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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