Wyoming School District Overturns Ban on Student Prayer in Cafeteria

lunchroomWHEATLAND, Wyo. — A school district in Wyoming has overturned its ban on student prayer in cafeterias during the lunch period after a nationally-recognized religious liberties group intervened in the matter.

According to reports, in October, several students at Glendo High School gathered in the back of the cafeteria during their lunch time and stood in a circle as one prayed for God to bless the food. No teachers or school officials participated in the prayer.

However, Principal Stanetta Twiford later approached one of the students and informed them that they couldn’t pray in the cafeteria because the prayer circle forced religion on others. She stated that the students needed to obtain advance permission, and even then, they could only pray in the hall or gymnasium, so that they were not engaging in the activity near other students.

A parent of three of the students then contacted Twiford and district Superintendent Dennis Fischer, but the two agreed that the prayer circle was unconstitutional because any students in the cafeteria that saw the small gathering would feel like a “captive audience.”

The parent then contacted the legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for assistance, which wrote a letter to the district to assert that it misunderstands the law.

“School cafeterias are not religion-free zones, and they certainly do not involve captive audiences,” the correspondence outlined. “Students in the cafeteria are not captive audiences because they can leave at any time or turn away from the quiet prayer in the corner…. Further, students in the cafeteria are no more a captive audience than students in the hallway or students on a playground…. So long as non-disruptive speech occurs during non-instructional time, schools must allow that speech. The Supreme Court has already confirmed this very point…”

This past week, Superintendent Fischer wrote to ADF to explain that he had investigated and analyzed the situation further, and was told by the district’s attorney that the students’ activity is lawful.

  • Connect with Christian News

“I alerted Principal Twiford of this decision and to let the students know that they can pray before meals in the manner they had in the incident in question,” he wrote. “The students have since prayed at least once in this manner and will continue to be allowed to do so as long as it falls inside the guidelines of the Equal Access Act.”

ADF says that it is satisfied with the outcome of the situation.

“No student should be prevented from engaging in private prayer alone or quietly with other students on campus,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs in a statement on Friday. “The First Amendment protects the right to pray in a non-disruptive manner not just in private but in public, too. The district has done the right thing in lifting its unconstitutional ban.”


A special message from the publisher...

Dear Reader, our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq, and through this we have been compelled to take a stand at the gates of hell against the enemy who came to kill and destroy. Bibles for Iraq is a project to put Arabic and Kurdish audio Bibles into the hands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees—many of whom are illiterate and who have never heard the gospel.Will you stand with us and make a donation today to this important effort? Please click here to send a Bible to a refugee >>

Print Friendly
  • Oboehner

    Principal Stanetta Twiford forced her religion on students.
    Simple solution, end government schools, they are an epic fail – Communist Manifesto plank 10.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Define the terms for success or failure.

      • Oboehner

        Education level compared to third world countries or even proper homeschooling – like I said, epic fail.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Okay, as based on what? Standardized testing?

          • Oboehner

            Based on education level compared to third world countries or even proper homeschoolers.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            And how do you measure “the education level” of anyone?

          • Oboehner

            Ability to comprehend simple subjects without asking the same question over and over, vocabulary, math skills, etc.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I’m not asking what the criteria is, I’m asking how you measure it. Standardized testing, then?

          • Oboehner

            No need for any complex testing, one can see the shortcomings of our pathetic excuse for education just by watching some teenager attempt to make change at the grocery store.

  • The Skeptical Chymist

    I’m glad that the ADF educated the principal and superintendent on this issue. As long as there is no teacher involvement and the prayer is non-disruptive, the students have the right to pray to whatever god they wish.

    • Mark Wilder

      Why are we taking away the teachers right to pray in the same manner?

      • Ambulance Chaser

        We’re not taking it away, it’s a right teachers don’t have. When they’re acting as agents of the state, they can’t express any preference for any religion or religion in general.

        • Bill

          That has only been the case in the last 40 years or so. The previous 200 it was ok…..odd, don’t you think!

          • acontraryview

            Not odd at all. it wasn’t until fairly recently that the idea was challenged in court. it would be like saying: “Interracial marriage has only been around for the 40 years or so. The previous 200 it wasn’t allowed….odd, don’t you think!”

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, not really. What’s your point?

        • Becky

          Rubbish. The constitution doesn’t support your highly inaccurate interpretation.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            School staff may not participate in prayers during school-controlled, curriculum -related activities, including school sports. Doe v. Duncanville Independent School District 994 F.2d 160.

          • Becky

            Like the supreme court justice’s ruling regarding “same-sex marriage”, this too is a terrible interpretation of the constitution.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I don’t really care whether a given ruling is “good” or “bad” (or even “terrible”). Only that it exists.

          • afchief

            Silly “Make believe lawyer” courts don’t change laws only legislative branches do!!!! The “Supreme” Court opinions changes NOTHING, it simply offers opinions on whether or not a “law” meets Constitutional muster. If the law violates the Constitution, then the law is remanded back to the Legislative branch so that the law can be re-written to fall in line with the Constitution. This is how our government is supposed to create laws.

            An “opinion” does not change the law. They just tell us that it does and we believe their lies. We then repeat their lies and teach them to others. The lies soon become “truth”, although it is not The Truth.

            I’ll say it again. Courts do not make laws.

          • NGN

            opinions vary. Most humans are fine with other humans marrying the consenting adult of their liking. Quit forcing your antiquated view of marriage on society

          • afchief

            Marriage has already been defined for hundreds of years. It has been and always will be one man and one woman. That is the way God established marriage. It does NOT matter what homos try to call it. It will NEVER be marriage. NEVER!!!

          • afchief

            Becky, this is a “lie” from the liberal/homosexual left!!! There is NO law concerning homo marriage, separation of church and state or abortion. There are ONLY court opinions. Opinions change NOTHING!!! Courts cannot change or make laws. Only the legislative branch can do that. Once the court makes a ruling it then is up to the legislative branch to change it.

            You cannot legislate from the bench. This a lie the left love to use. It is a lie, period!!!

          • Becky

            I agree 100%.

          • afchief

            SHOW ME THE LAW!!!!

        • afchief

          Nope!!! Again, you are proving yourself to be a liar!!! Show me where it says that in here in the Constitution;

          “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

          The right to pray is unalienable. The First Amendment calls it “free exercise.” Free exercise! Not ACLU enforced “disestablishment” of Christianity.

          Since the 1947 Everson v Board of Education opinion, we have been sold a lie. Religious liberty is absolute in America. If the government can inhibit the mention of God, then government has inserted itself ABOVE God. That has been the Christ-haters plan all along. They have used that lie to run Christianity out of the Public Square.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            How can it be a lie if everyone agrees that that’s the law?

          • afchief

            For the umpteenth time…….SHOW ME THE LAW!!!!

          • Ambulance Chaser

            And for the umpteenth time, the law is the First Amendment, applied to these facts by case law. Which everyone in America and on this site, except you for some reason, accepts as binding.

          • afchief

            Poor make believe lawyer!!! You cannot believe court decisions are not law. Well I would get my money back from “Rocko’s law school for the mentally impaired” because please show me where is states “separation from church and state” in the 1st amendment.

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

            Hmmm……Congress is who? Let me think on that one. Free exercise means hmmmm………I think it takes a genius to figure out what that means.

            Hmmmm….the 1st amendment is just to hard to decipher!!! I think I better call a lawyer who knows what it means.

            LOL!!!

          • Ambulance Chaser

            You don’t have to call anybody. You can read what it means whenever you want. Because what it means is whatever courts rule it to mean.

            Yes, yes, I know, I’m a fake lawyer, I went to a law school for the mentally ill, I have no understanding of how our legal system works, etc.

            Fine then, don’t listen to me. Read “Which Court is Binding,” by Robyn Painter and Kate Mayer a publication of the Georgetown University Law Center. It’s free to Google. Or maybe you’d like to read “Mandatory v. Persuasive Cases” by Barbara Bintliff, a professor of law at Louisiana State University. Or maybe “Stare Decisis in California State Courts: the Decisions that Bind Us, by Sarah Allman, the president of Allman & Nielsen, PC. Those are free for anyone to read too.

            Or are all of these people fake lawyers too?

          • afchief

            Poor “Make believe Lawyer” why don’t you read the Constitution, books on Constitutional law, and our Founders intent of our government? You might learn something about law. Because right now, you are proving yourself QUITE ignorant!!!

            The Supreme Court versus Congress

            Even though the Constitution gave the lawmaking powers to the Congress, courts have become the predominant policy making body in the nation. In fact, on public tours of the Supreme Court, one often hears the ridiculous claim that “this is the building from which all the laws in the land emanate.” The Supreme Court, fully believing its own propaganda, regularly strikes down or rewrites the laws of Congress to conform to its own predilections and edicts.

            For example, in 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to correct an earlier Supreme Court decision that weakened a long-standing First Amendment protection for religious groups. That Congressional act reinstituted protection declaring that a government entity must not interfere with a religious body unless it had “a compelling state interest” for doing so. When a Catholic church in Boerne, Texas, sought to accommodate its burgeoning membership but was denied a building permit to expand its facilities, the church invoked relief under RFRA, claiming the city had no “compelling state interest” in denying the church expansion. The Court ruled otherwise, striking down Congress’ attempt to protect religious bodies from government intrusion. While most decried this decision for weakening the rights of religious bodies, there was a far greater question at stake.

            Congress invoked Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution in passing RFRA to protect religious freedoms from further governmental encroachment. Yet even though the Congress had acted on the power explicitly given it in the Constitution, the Court struck down the law, refusing to be corrected by Congress and warning that Congress should not attempt to correct a Court ruling. Significantly, Congress cited the Constitution as its authority for passing RFRA, but the Court did not cite the Constitution as its authority for striking RFRA down. The Court instead pointed to its own previous decisions, thus elevating its rulings higher than the Constitution itself. As it explained, “Any suggestion that Congress has a substantive, non-remedial power under the Fourteenth Amendment is not supported by our case law.” The Court then rebuked Congress, warning that its judicial edicts must be treated “with the respect due them.” In short, we the Court demand that you the Congress adhere to our opinions regardless of what the Constitution says.

            Obviously, the Supreme Court considers both itself and its decisions supreme over Congress. However, the Constitution disagrees – it deliberately empowers Congress with greater power. For example, the Constitution gives Congress the authority to set the salaries for judges, determine the size of the Judiciary, establish the scope of the Judiciary’s jurisdiction and the types of cases which come before it. Furthermore, judges cannot serve without the approval of Congress, and Congress may remove judges with whom it is dissatisfied. These are just some of the “constitutional arms” for Congress’ “powers of self-defense” (Federalist 73, Alexander Hamilton).

            The Constitution clearly places many of the operations of the Judiciary under the oversight of Congress – a power not granted reciprocally to the Judiciary. This is made clear in the Federalist Papers (described by James Madison as “the most authentic exposition of the heart of the federal Constitution”), which confirm that subjugating the Judiciary to Congress was deliberate and intentional. Federalist #51 declares:

            The legislative authority necessarily predominates.

            Federalist #78 then proclaims:

            The Judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power.

            Furthermore, Federalist #49 declares that Congress – not the Court – is “the confidential guardians of [the people’s] rights and liberties.” Why? Because the Legislature – not the unelected judiciary – is closest to the people and most responsive to them. In fact, the Court’s own history proves that it is not a proficient guardian of the people’s rights. For example, after the Civil War, Congress passed civil rights laws forbidding segregation, but the Court struck down these laws and instead instituted “separate but equal” in Plessey v. Ferguson. (While the Court eventually ended this racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, that decision was merely the Court’s reversal of its own segregation standard previously established in Plessey.)

            Moreover, had it been up to the Court, slavery would have never ended: in 1857, the Court declared it unconstitutional for the other branches to end slavery or to free slaves. Fortunately, Congress ignored that decision by declaring freedom for slaves in 1862 and President Lincoln also ignored that decision by issuing the “Emancipation Proclamation” in 1863. All substantive progress in civil rights after the Civil War was accomplished only after Congress used Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution to remove Reconstruction issues from the Court’s reach. Indeed, history demonstrates that the Court is less than a faithful guardian of the people’s rights, violating the people’s liberties as often as it protects them. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out:

            Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. . . . and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.

            Today, the Court claims that it is the only body capable of interpreting the Constitution – that Congress is incapable of determining constitutionality. However, the Founding Fathers vehemently disagreed. For example, James Madison declared:

            [T]he meaning of the Constitution may as well be ascertained by the Legislative as by the Judicial authority.

            Constitutional Convention delegate Luther Martin similarly attested:

            A knowledge of mankind and of legislative affairs cannot be presumed to belong in a higher degree to the Judges than to the Legislature.

            The Founders consistently opposed the Court being the final word on constitutionality. For example, Thomas Jefferson declared:

            [T]o consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. . . . The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal.

            He further explained that if the Court was left unchecked:

            The Constitution . . . [would be] a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.

            Allowing the Court to enlarge its own sphere of power beyond what the Constitution authorizes, permitting the Court to usurp the powers of Congress, and tolerating the Courts’ disregard of constitutional separation of powers moves America ever further from being a representative republic and ever closer toward the oligarchy against which Jefferson warned. The Court must be resisted in these attempts.

            Impeachment: The Founders’ Solution

            As noted earlier, judges in previous generations who usurped powers from Congress or the people faced impeachment. But today’s critics claim that the use of impeachment would either make the judiciary a “political” branch (as if it were not already a political branch) or that it would violate the “independence of the judiciary.” Yet, as Thomas Jefferson so accurately cautioned,

            It should be remembered as an axiom of eternal truth in politics that whatever power . . . is independent is absolute also. . . . Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass.

            No judge should ever be so independent that he is unaccountable to the Congress, and thereby the people. As Justice James Iredell (placed on the Court by President George Washington) so clearly explained:

            Every government requires it [impeachment]. Every man ought to be amenable for his conduct.

            Iredell further noted that some officials will behave themselves only under “the very terror of punishment” that impeachment provides. Recent events suggest he was right.

            In 1996, six members of the Supreme Court voted to overturn the Colorado election forbidding special (rather than just equal) rights for homosexuals. Following that flagrant display of contempt for the will of Colorado voters, there was a national call for the impeachment of those six Justices. After this clamor for their removal, those same six Justices suddenly became ardent defenders of the people’s elections and in a subsequent decision unexpectedly and unanimously chastised a lower court that had overturned a statewide election in Arizona. (Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson on multiple occasions called impeachment a “scarecrow” – something used to frighten predators – and the threat of impeachment certainly had that effect on the Supreme Court.)

            Similarly, after a federal judge overturned a binding referendum by the voters of California (“Proposition 209”), national leaders called for the impeachment of that judge. Later, the 9th Circuit ordered the results of the election reinstated and criticized that judge for ignoring the will of the people. Yet, this same 9th Circuit Court had itself shortly before overturned at least three similar elections. Why the flip-flop? The “scarecrow” had been forcefully raised by Congress to make judges accountable for their decisions by returning to the original constitutional uses of impeachment.

            It is true that impeachment is a cumbersome process, and achieving a conviction is difficult. However, on most occasions, just the threat of impeachment produces results. In fact, there are several examples of federal judges correcting their own decisions after hearing Congressional calls for their impeachment; and an actual impeachment sends an even more powerful message to all other wayward leaning judges.

            Although Congress is ultimately responsible for the discipline of judges, far too many of our Congressmen (like far too many of our citizens) have no understanding of the proper use of impeachment. However, a wise political axiom declares that “Congress sees the light when it feels the heat,” and this is especially true on this issue. As citizens, we need to educate ourselves on the proper use of judicial impeachment, and then we need to educate our Representatives, reminding them of the need for judicial reform and alerting them to those judges showing a pattern of abuse. The time for encouraging judicial accountability is once again ripe. This is a golden opportunity for citizens to weigh in and make a difference.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Blah blah blah, long irrelevant copypasta. I asked you a question. The people who wrote those articles: are they “fake lawyers” too?

          • afchief

            They are historians who KNOW our history and how constitutional law works. Unlike lying liberals who say they are lawyers. They stuff I quote and post should be COMMONSENSE to ANY lawyer!!!!

            Only a brain dead anti-christian liberal thinks the courts can make, change or do away with a law once they render an opinion! Unbelievable!!!!!

          • Bill

            Not everyone agrees. Then US Supreme court was divided….

          • Ambulance Chaser

            They’re not divided on the subject of whether their ruling is binding.

        • Josie

          Only if they’re in the confines of students.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I wouldn’t use the word “confines,” I would say “presence,” but yes, that’s otherwise correct.

      • acontraryview

        They have no such right. They are employees of the state.

        • Becky

          Rubbish! There isn’t a single statement within the constitution to support what you’re saying.

          • acontraryview

            Oh dear. You think that every law and restriction has to be in the Constitution. Poor dear. I hate to break it to you, Becky, but you are mistaken.

          • Becky

            Pray tell, what current US law(s) states that government employees have no religious rights while on the job?

          • acontraryview

            I never said that government employees have no religious rights while on the job, now did I Becky?

          • Becky

            Uh, yeah, ya did…”They have no such right. They are employees of the state.”

            Teachers are employed by the federal government and their state government.

          • acontraryview

            “Uh, yeah, ya did…”They have no such right. They are employees of the state.””

            The situation under discussion was praying out loud in a school cafeteria. There was no mention made of “no religious rights”.

            “So, again, what current US law(s) states that government employees have no religious rights while on the job?”

            Since I never said that government employees have no religious rights on the job, your question is without merit.

          • Becky

            Lol, well no wonder you don’t comprehend the constitution…you don’t even comprehend your own words.

          • acontraryview

            Actually, Becky, it was you who had a mistaken view on what I said.

          • jehanne

            So a teacher cannot have a discussion about religion with another at his or her table? Because they are speaking audibly? It sounds like this is what you are saying? —- I have never met a generation so intent on telling God to go to hell.

        • afchief

          You prove yourself to be a liar over and over!!!

          • acontraryview

            You continue to accuse me of being a liar, yet you have been unable to cite anything I have said that is a lie. What is it they call that? Oh, yeah, bearing false witness.

          • afchief

            Yes, you are a liar!!!!!

            The 1st Amendment, places a limit on what Congress can do, not a limit on what states can do and not a limit on what public schools or individual people can do.

            Congress, the 1st Amendment pointedly states, “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

            The wise and pro-Christian purpose of the 1st Amendment is to keep the federal government from allowing a denomination of the Christian church to become the state church of the United States of America.

            The 1st Amendment thus stands against a national state denominational church – not against Christianity. And not against Christianity in the name of secularism. (Let us not forget that one of the lessons of the 20th century is that, out of its own inner philosophic necessity, unbridled secularism breeds unfreedom and inhumanity.)

            Instead, the aim of the 1st Amendment is to protect the individual states from a federal monopoly of political and ecclesiastical power. It is not designed to unleash and impose a Christian-hating secular terror upon the American people.

            In the constitutional affirmation of liberty, the individual states were – and are – free to create their own denominational state churches, if that is the desire of the citizens of the respective states. It is a matter of choice left to the states and not to the federal government.

            The last thing either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence has in mind is the removal of Christianity from public life and from public influence across the whole of life. That view is secular superstition.

            After all, the entire body politic of the American initiative is rooted in the Biblical concept of there being a real Creator who has created human beings in his image and has endowed human beings with “certain unalienable rights,” and that among them are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is about as unsecular as it gets.

            The point of the U.S. Constitution is to incarnate politically and governmentally those principles of human freedom and dignity, rooted in the Creator, that are expressed in the Declaration. Yes, it is possible to think and act holistically when founding a nation “conceived in liberty.”

            What follows is clear: Public school officials in every state are entirely within their rights as human beings and as U.S. citizens to stage plays that speak clearly and dramatically about the facts and message of the space-time birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

            This is the mainstream and humane position of human freedom and dignity, and of an American citizen’s freedom and dignity, under God, as expressed in the genius of the American founding.

            Against this, secular extremists have created a fairy tale of legalistic mythology to support their ahistorical beliefs regarding the 1st Amendment, the Constitution, and a freedom-denying secularistic society.

            As the news reminds us virtually every day, this extremism wars against who we are as human beings – and against who we are as American citizens – alive to living in liberating community with God and man in the total circle of life, including public life.

            This extremism should be rejected, and must be rejected root and branch, if the tree of liberty is to survive and thrive. Either that or face the fundamental transformation of America into utter regressiveness and lack of humanness.

            America is about freedom to live in the light and to reject the darkness – on stages, in schools, at football games, in the marketplace, and in the halls of Congress. This truly is love without limits.

            This is who we are. And if we would be free tomorrow and the day after, this is who we must forever be.

  • bowie1

    People do all kinds of things with a small group e.g. cliques, but does that mean the other students are being forced to participate? Of course not. Why should a small prayer circle be any different?

  • acontraryview

    I agree with the decision to reverse the ban.

  • Bill

    Thank you AFD!

  • Becky

    This is most excellent!!

    Btw, teachers, or any other public servant, has every right to exercise their religious liberties while on the job. There’s a misunderstanding of what the government is. Public servants/teachers are not the government, per se. The system is our government. Therefore, it’s our system that cannot take preference over a religion, religion or no religion.

  • Zeke

    It should never have been banned – the school was not promoting religion, and people have the right to pray in public, annoying as it is.