Eliminating prayer in public schools is a violation our First Amendment rights!
By Rhetta Peoples
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Many of us are in celebration mode as back to school days are finally upon us. However, Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman at Pace High School in Santa Rosa County Florida are fighting for rights that somehow are already established in the First Amendment.
Recently, at a luncheon that was given to thank supporters of the school, Principal Lay asked Freeman to bless the food. Would it be appropriate for me to say after this prayer, all hell broke loose? Well it did because both Lay and Freeman are now facing criminal charges for praying and could face six months in jail and loss of retirement benefits as a result. Although students were not in attendance, the ACLU is demanding punishment because they believe this school district has a reputation for pushing their religious views upon students. I bet you’re thinking, “Well no students were in attendance.” So is every other rationally minded human being. Even if students were in attendance, this is still a major violation of our rights. News outlets are reporting that schools in this district are not even allowed to bow their heads and pray silently before a meal. I don’t know about you but I think someone up the totem pole has praying people confused with passive people.
When my daughter Nile was 3 years old, there was a little girl at her school that kept referring to her as “that little black girl.” Although she knew my daughter’s name, she chose to call her “that little black girl.” After a while, I brought it to the attention of the director of the school who in turn brought it to the attention of the child’s parents. The parents responded by saying “my daughter can say whatever she wants.” Of course, I responded by saying, “well then, so can mine and if you choose to get into a war or words, let the games begin.” My final words to the director of the school went a little something like this…”So, when Nile decides to exercise her First Amendment rights, don’t call me in for a parent teacher conference because this conversation is officially your “conference”. That may have not been the “Christian” thing to say, but hey, I’m still a work in progress. Nile is a proud “little black girl” and make no mistake, we embrace our race, but it’s inappropriate for a school to allow children to identify each other by race. I spent quality time picking out her name and I want people to use it! A few days later, I was given a letter by the school asking me to sign a statement saying that I understand that each child has the right to say what they feel. And get this, all of this occurred in a private school! If a 3-year old can exercise her First Amendment rights in school, why wouldn’t the same rights apply to the administrators at Pace High School?
The First Amendment Center in Nashville, offers a fabulous resource for teachers. They print something called “A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools.” Maybe the ACLU could use a copy. Or, wait, my bad, maybe they are too caught up in thinking the First Amendment was written only for them. The ACLU lists several myths on their website regarding the incident and their answer to the myths appear to be misleading. They claim the administrators are guilty of violating a court order and not guilty of praying in school, but the court order was for them to NOT pray in school. I’m more interested in finding out what court ordered these people to not be able to bow their heads in prayer? Is the ACLU serious or is this just a PR stunt? Their ranting and raving is beginning to sound like the adult voices on the cartoon series, “Charlie Brown.” We need to fully understand The First Amendment gives us the opportunity to freely express ourselves without government intervention or penalties. When that is taken away, it violates everything this country stands for. As parents and responsible adults, we should have the upper hand in educating our children about issues that matter to us most. If religion is as important to all those who take an interest in this matter, then their home education will easily trump anything schools could impose.