CONCORD — A mother in New Hampshire that was barred from praying outside of the high school that her children attend may file a lawsuit against the school district in an effort to gain her right to continue to the practice.
As previously reported, Lizarda Urena has been praying on the steps of the Concord High School auditorium every morning at approximately 7 a.m. since February. She began the tradition after her daughter was bullied at school, and at first, would read Scripture aloud and pray for the students and faculty, including those who allegedly mistreated her daughter.
For nearly four months, Urena’s practice of praying at the school continued without a complaint, and officials took no issue with her presence.
“She’s not teaching prayer; she’s not out there asking kids to come with [her],” Principal Gene Connolly told the Concord Monitor. “She does not promote religion.”
However, in May of this year, an unidentified resident contacted the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to complain. In turn, the organization sought to investigate the matter further.
“We sent an open records request to the school district, asking them for copies of any meeting minutes or any sort of documents which gave this woman permission to pray on school property,” attorney Rebecca Markert told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Additionally, the FFRF sent a letter urging the district to stop Urena from continuing to pray on the steps. At one point, officials told the mother that she could not pray aloud but that she could remain on the property, and so she began praying silently every morning.
However, last month, the district responded to the FFRF, advising that it will no longer allow Urena to pray at all on school grounds.
“To be fair to all the kids in the school, it is probably best for the principal to say that she shouldn’t be speaking out like this and proselytizing on school grounds,” school board President Kassandra Ardinger told reporters. “The best mode of action was to tell her to cool it.”‘
However, a former state lawmaker is now providing assistance to Urena by helping her select legal representation. David Bates, R-Windham, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that several groups have offered to help the mother.
“If the school [district] remains inflexible about her praying on school property, there absolutely will be a lawsuit,” he said.
Bates also explained that he has been seeking public records surrounding the matter in an effort to understand why Urena was barred from praying at the school.
“I, as a New Hampshire citizen, have a right to know this,” he told the publication. “Myself and others might want to pray there.”
Urena likewise stated that she has been blessed by the outpouring of support that she has received across the country from her story making national headlines. She was to have possibly chosen an attorney by the end of the day Monday.