LIBERAL, Kansas — A school board in Kansas has voted unanimously to allow student-led prayers at school functions, restoring a practice that had been discontinued due to a fear of appearing to endorse a particular religion.
While prayer was not on the agenda for this month’s meeting in Liberal, Kansas, members agreed that it was an important issue to address.
“I would like to see us bring prayer back to the games,” stated board member Nick Hatcher. “I have struggled with that—not having prayer at our activities—because it’s ‘not the thing to do.’ But if the board thought it was important enough that they would support it, and defend it if the time came, I’d like to ask that we do that at our next meeting.”
“Why not do it now?” asked Tammy Sutherland-Abbott.
She stated that she found it hypocritical that the board opens each meeting with prayer, while prohibiting students from leading invocations at school events.
“We sit up here like hypocrites and we pray, but we won’t let our kids do it,” she noted.
Pastor Jack Jacobs had led the members in prayer that evening.
Board President Delvin Kinser agreed. He said that he knew a student group that would be happy to participate.
“I happen to know they’re meeting at the school right now, and I can just betcha they’d be willing to provide students to pray at football games,” Kinser stated.
But according to the High Plains Daily Leader and Times, Superintendent Paul Larkin issued a word of caution to the group, stating that board members should consult with an attorney before they vote on the matter. He worried that there could be legal consequences for permitting student-led prayer at school events.
Nonetheless, the vote proceeded and the decision was unanimous, 7-0. The board also concluded during the night’s discussion that students should be permitted to use the intercom to pray at events, such as school football games. The practice had been allowed for a time, but was discontinued nearly ten years ago due to fear of legal reprisal.
“I think that’s one of the greatest things we’ve ever done,” Sutherland-Abott told the group, referring to the reinstatement of the prayers.
“We do live in a democratic society, and I personally feel like our community would support that decision, regardless of the rest of the world,” added Hatcher.
Reaction to the decision has been mixed.
“It’s a decision that could only be made by board members who selfishly put their religious beliefs in front of the students’ best interests,” wrote atheist commentator Hemant Mehta. “Not a single board member had the guts to say this was a bad idea. They all need to be voted out.”
“It’s both encouraging and heartwarming to see the people in this area of Kansas rise up and revolt Spartacus-like,” stated Michael Dorstewitz of BizPac Review, who applauded the board. “[They] tell Washington, D.C.: ‘We tried your way, thank you. We’ll go back to doing it our way.’”