Okla. Elementary School Pushed Religion on Students, FFRF Claims
Prague Elementary School hosted daily prayers during its morning announcements and posted photos and names of students who “asked to pray.”
PRAGUE, Okla. — A nonprofit organization that advocates for the separation of church and state claims an Oklahoma elementary school was unconstitutionally pushing religion on students.
Last month, an anonymous community member reported to the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) that Prague Elementary School had been hosting daily prayers during its morning announcements, MSN reports.
The anonymous individual also reported that the Prague Public Schools Facebook page had been posting the photos and full names of students who “asked if they could pray.” FFRF claims the district was making these social media posts “presumably so that they could receive accolades from the community for adhering to the majoritarian religious belief.” It also said that if students were allegedly asking to pray, they were only doing so “because the school established the practice and actively promoted this in-school religious worship.”
Chris Line, an attorney for the foundation, wrote a letter to Prague Superintendent Kevin Engle on Nov. 7, expressing concern that the district was violating the First Amendment. He said publicly celebrating the students who participate alienates nonreligious students, employees, and families whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the district.
“The First Amendment prohibits a public school from hosting or sponsoring prayer, even if it is ‘student-led.’ The Supreme Court has continually struck down formal and school-led prayer in public schools,” Line wrote. “Even when student-initiated, which this daily practice is most certainly not given the age of the students and the District’s active participation in organizing and promoting it, the Supreme Court has found school sponsorship of prayers unconstitutional.”
On Nov. 17, the school district’s attorney, Justin Cliburn, responded to Line’s letter.
“The District agrees that the posts and prayer are inappropriate for a public school district,” he replied. “It will ensure neither occurs in the future and will delete any District social media posts referencing the same.”
A parent whose four children attend Prague Elementary also claims her daughter came home with Bibles and that she was “pushed” to attend Bible studies during recess.
“She said, ‘Well, our guidance counselor is putting together a group so that we can raise money to have Bibles,” she told KFOR. “The guidance counselor called the Sunday school teacher and the Sunday school teacher agreed to organize but the kids had to lead it. My middle girl came running over to me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to go learn about God.'”
One parent who asked to remain anonymous said some students who choose not to participate are being bullied.
Prague Public Schools serves a city of around 2,300 and has approximately 530 students at its elementary school.
If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!
Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century
This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!