Colorado Teen Sues School for Banning Prayer Gathering During Free Period

WindebankCOLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Attorneys representing a Christian teenager in Colorado have filed a legal challenge on behalf of the student after he and other students were prohibited from meeting to sing, pray and discuss religious topics during their free period.

Pine Creek High School Senior Chase Windebank had been leading the group for the past three years during what is called the “seminar” period at the school. According to reports, on Mondays and Wednesdays, students are allowed to leave the class after the first fifteen minutes of the period, and students with a passing grade may also do so on Fridays.

“During the free time, students are permitted to engage in a virtually unlimited variety of activities, including gathering with other students inside or outside; reading; sending text messages to their friends; playing games on their phone; visiting the bathrooms; getting a snack; visiting teachers; and conducting official meetings of school clubs,” states Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian legal organization representing Windebank outlines.

For the past three years, Windebank has been granted permission from the choir teacher to use the choir room when he leaves the “seminar” morning period. Windebank and other students use the room to sing Christian songs together, pray and discuss matters of faith.

But in late September, Pine Creek Assistant Principal Jim Lucas contacted Windebank and advised that he must discontinue the practice due to the “separation of church and state.” ADF then sent a letter to the school and district about the matter, and received a response from district attorney Patricia Richardson, who asserted that the period was rather not a free period but considered instructional time.

“Seminar at Pine Creek is not homeroom time. It is class time and it is considered instructional time,” she said. “No non-curricular clubs are permitted to meet during that time period.”

Richardson further stated that Windebank and the other students would have to hold their meetings either before or after school.

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District spokesperson Nanette Andrerson likewise told The Gazette that students are only allowed to leave the classroom to “participate in curriculum-related activities, such as studying in the library or with study groups, seeking individual assistance from staff members or meeting with curriculum-related clubs.”

However, when Windebank complied and moved the meeting times, he found that attendance to the gathering dwindled from 90 students down to sometimes only 12 as students had prior commitments.

Therefore, as officials have been unwilling to budge on the matter, ADF filed a federal legal challenge over the matter on Friday, seeking a permanent injunction against the actions of the school and district.

“Public schools should encourage the free exchange of ideas. Instead, this school implemented an ill-conceived ban that singles out religious speech for censorship during free time,” remarked ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco in a press release announcing the suit.

“Far from being unconstitutional, religious speech is expressly protected by the First Amendment, and public schools have no business stopping students from praying together during their free time,” added ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp.


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  • James Grimes

    Awesome. The kid knows what his rights are and is standing by them. My hat is off to him. The feminist liberals will have to back off on this.

    • Tabitha Bingham

      Huh? What the heck does this have to do with feminism? Wow. It makes me so sad to see someone with the name of my father with such a horridly deranged mind. Sickening. You sir, need meds.

      • James Grimes

        Missy, what planet are you from?

        • Tabitha Bingham

          Earth. And you? Seriously sir, what DOES feminism have to do with this article? Do you just hate women in general and this think it OK to spout off at “feminists” for no good reason other than to vent your spleen? Oh, and you really do share my fathers name and it really does sicken me. Not your fault really. Only that if he had said what you had said, the entire family would have worried for his sanity. It’s just freaky, you know?

          • James Grimes

            I’m not interested.

          • Tabitha Bingham

            So, you can’t answer my question huh? It’s simple – “Do you just hate women in general and this think it OK to spout off at “feminists” for no good reason other than to vent your spleen?”

  • Demopublicrat

    Yet they teach evolutionism in the same school at taxpayer expense.

    • BarkingDawg

      As well they should

      The students who are going on to pursue college degrees in medicine or science will need to know that stuff. Not introducing them to the topic in high school wil put them at a disadvantage when they go on to higher education.

      • Demopublicrat

        What does religion have to do with medicine or science? No wonder malpractice is one of the biggest killers in the U.S.

        • BarkingDawg

          The study of evolution is critical to the study of biology.

          • Demopublicrat

            The study of evolution is making crap up to fit one’s world view.

          • BarkingDawg

            So you don’t believe in biology?

          • Demopublicrat

            I like biology, unless they make crap up to fit heir world view.

          • Tabitha Bingham

            Kinda like religion?

          • Demopublicrat

            The only religion being taught as some kind of “scientific fact” at taxpayer expense in government schools is evolutionism.

          • Tabitha Bingham

            A) You missed my point. B) Evolution is SCIENCE not religion.
            C) If you think teaching evolution at taxpayers expense is bad, then what would you think of teaching creationism at taxpayer expense? Let me guess, you’d be fine with that since it fits your microscopic world view.

          • Demopublicrat

            A) your point is irrelevant. B)Evolution IS MOST DEFINATELY not science it is a religion.
            C) Like I said before over and over, what I believe is not being taught, you can’t even wipe your posterior with what ifs.

          • Peter Palmer

            I see that along with being scientifically illiterate, you are also definitely spelling challenged.

          • Demopublicrat

            I fixed mine, too you bad you can’t fix yours, good luck with your scientifically illiterate religion.

          • Tabitha Bingham

            These guys are funny. Don’t expect them to see reason though. Logic and reason are clearly foreign concepts to them.

          • James Grimes

            The study of evolution is a waste of time.

          • Demopublicrat

            Yep, SpongeBob is more realistic.

  • bowie1

    If it is student initiated then I understand it is legal to meet in this way.

  • David Pechacek

    IE: You’re not worshipping our god of the state so you need to stop.

    • James Grimes

      I’m not sure what you are getting at. Your comment is somewhat befuddled.

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        I think, James, that he is saying that what the school is basing their position on is that since these Christians do not worship the government (like so many in our culture), then they are not going to be allowed to worship the One True God. It’s a good point, if I understand David correctly. After all, everyone has a “god” – it’s merely a question of what or Who we worship. Naturalistic a-theism, the worldview of the government schools, is most certainly a religion – and a blind faith one at that. God bless you, and keep up the great postings!

        • James Grimes

          Let’s wait to see if he replies. He might be able to better explain what he meant.

  • drew

    So, you all are fine with a muslim group praying in school?

    • Chris

      Yes we are.

    • James Grimes

      Yes, of course.

    • MC

      Yup! Why, don’t you believe in the First Admendment?

    • WorldGoneCrazy

      That back-fired, Drew. 🙂 God bless you!

      • Tabitha Bingham

        Yep, it’s easy for them to say that though. I would hold my breath for their true position until it is tested. Let’s see how they react to an actual muslim study group or “gasp” a muslim school holiday.

        Let’s amp that question up, shall we? How would you guys react to a WICCAN study group or school holiday? Bahai? Satanism? Scientology? Church of the subgenius?

        • WorldGoneCrazy

          Remember Tabitha: this is not a school-sponsored or teacher-led activity. It is a period of free time where some Christian students got together for edification and building up. (At least, that is my understanding.) So, if a group of Muslim students or Satan-worshipping students desires to get together during this free time, that is fine. But, a school-wide Islam holiday or teacher-led Wiccan study is, of course, a different story altogether. And, the veneration of Islam (and the religion of same sex “marriage”) ARE actually becoming a part of the curriculum in many places, but I don’t see the FFRF doing much in the way of protesting those things.
          It’s a good challenge you give, though – will be interesting to see if you get a reply. God bless you, Tabitha!

          • Tabitha Bingham

            That is a good point. A school holiday would be a different matter. I don’t feel it entirely irrelevant as public schools do, in fact, celebrate some Christian holidays, for the most part. Christianity, above all other religions DOES already get preferential treatment there. And, I would be very interested to see the reaction for a holiday for a different religion. But, it wouldn’t really be germane to this particular article 🙂 So I will happily drop that part of my query. By the way, what is FFRF?

            P.S. I agree that issues of sexuality should not be covered in public schools. I do agree with sex ed but in the old fashioned manner 🙂 Some things should be left to the parents. I am also against teaching religion in public school OUTSIDE of a completely secular, truly educational or informative setting which shows 0 preference to any religion and explores a number of different faiths both current and historical. Whew, that was a mouthful……

          • WorldGoneCrazy

            If I have my acronym right, FFRF is the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Of course, our Constitution provides for freedom OF religion. Nowhere is religion required to be exorcized from the public square. The government cannot force a state-sponsored religion on us, not can they invade the churches, but any public official is allowed to state their personal religious beliefs – they just cannot force it on anyone else. (FFRF would disagree with this, but that is because they are prepositionally-challenged. :-)) Sadly, public school teachers and administrators think that students cannot express their religious beliefs, but that is patently false. We have seen cases where children were not allowed to read their Bibles during free reading time, etc, because of a mis-understanding of this.

          • Tabitha Bingham

            Oh, and God Bless you too!

  • Frank

    They will win. It is obviously free time. The Court rulings on student led religious activity such as what they are doing is solidly in the students favor. Though as to their temporarily stopping prayer for now I would suggest they read what God has to say about that in Daniel and Acts and encourage them to follow the examples God gave us in this matter. God rewards those who diligently seek Him as also shown in these examples. Have faith in God. Live the Word.

  • Tim Raynor

    “Seminar at Pine Creek is not homeroom time. It is class time and it is considered instructional time,” she said. “No non-curricular clubs are permitted to meet during that time period.”

    Richardson further stated that Windebank and the other students would have to hold their meetings either before or after school.

    Notice the “No non-curricular” clubs. This would mean that even non-religious clubs do not get to use this as free time, as well. It’s a public school, they can make the rules on what is considered “free time” and what is curricular time. Not so hard to understand, and it’s right there in the article. Imagine that! 🙂

    • BarkingDawg

      It depends on what is defined as a Curriculum club.
      For example a German club, a debate club or a robotics club would be associated with a curriculum subject and thus I would think that they would be considered to be curriculum related clubs.

      • Tim Raynor

        Oh, I agree with you on that BarkingDawg. I’m referring more to something like a stamp collecting club or some kid’s Lego building club. My point is that other non-curriculum clubs are not allowed, thus making the “persecution complex” non-existent – assuming “We’re so persecuted” is where the student is taking it.

        • Corey

          But that’s not entirely correct Tim.

          1.) The “text messaging” club, or the “social networking” club, or the “play games on my phone” club is allowed to function without reservations. And those are non-curriculum groups.

          1a.) I know those are all individual activities, but I would safely say that at least 60% of the students are on their phones doing something.

          2.) Wouldn’t singing in the CHOIR room be a curriculum related club?

          3.) On a side note….maybe after they finish singing they could all pull out there phones and have the conversation via Facebook. Then there would be no issue.

          4.) If this is considered instructor-led time, what are the instructors doing?

          • Tim Raynor

            Maybe you should be asking the writer of the CNN article why some of your points and questions were not brought into greater detail?

  • http://www.moveupmarketinggroup.com Linda Tannen

    Defending God will always bring about blessings 🙂 now I hope when he wins, he will use the funds to start his own church 🙂 or donate to a good cause.

  • BarkingDawg

    If he had 90 students getting together, then, yes, it is a non-sponsored club.

    The school has the right to control non-sponsored activities.

    I wonder how big this choir room is. 90 students could be pushing the occupancy limits.