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Freethought Today · April 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

‘Holy water’ sprinkled on school grounds

When a new fitness trail was inaugurated at Cooper Elementary School in Bella Vista, Ark., the ceremony included prayers and the sprinkling of "holy water" while students and staff members looked on.

Staff members, including the school's principal and vice principal, were in attendance, as were the school district's assistant superintendent and a board member. A representative from Mercy Health, a co-sponsor of the trail, led the crowd in prayer. He asked everyone, including the students, to raise their hands to ask for God's blessing for the new trail. The adults, including the school officials, participated. Then, the nun sprinkled holy water over the site.

"It is unlawful for any school-sponsored event to include religious activities," says Patrick Elliot in his Feb. 23 letter, prompted by a concerned local parent, to lawyers for Bentonville Public Schools. "Even when outside the typical school environment, the Supreme Court has found prayers taking place at school-sponsored events unconstitutional."

By including prayers at school-sponsored events, Bentonville Public Schools abandons its duty to remain neutral toward religion and alienates the approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population that is not Christian, Elliot adds.

FFRF has asked Bentonville Public Schools to make certain that such religiosity is not repeated at future school events and that school officials inform it in writing of steps taken to ensure this.