MEDINA, Ohio — The superintendent of a school district in Ohio has put an end to a prayer chain that had been running between a local principal and teachers at his school, which served as a means to support the sick and abused.
“I’m a man of faith who wants good for all, but I’m also a firm believer in separation of church and state,” Medina Schools Superintendent Dave Knight told The Plain Dealer.
Principal Chad Wise of A.I. Root Middle School had posted a note in the staff newsletter recently that invited those interested to join the prayer chain. According to reports, members of the community were dealing with a number of difficulties, and the prayer chain was initiated to lift up those who were facing illnesses or death in their families, and to pray for children who were in the midst of neglect and abuse cases.
But someone complained to Superintendent Knight about the matter, who in turn contacted Wise and instructed him not to conduct the chain during school hours or with school computers.
“Public school staff can’t use district resources, including email, to promote prayer, especially when the principal, a person in a position of influence, is involved,” Knight told reporters. “When it comes to separation of church and state, it’s very clear.”
He advised Wise that it was permissible to send one email that requested “to keep a family in your thoughts and prayers,” but said that a prayer chain was taking the outreach too far.
“People caring for others is fine and we don’t want to lose that, but no one should feel guilty or unwelcome over who is or isn’t participating in a prayer group,” Knight said. “No one should be telling anyone else how to believe using district resources or on the clock, especially a person in a position of influence.”
Wise states that he will comply with Knight’s instruction, but will continue the prayer chain in his own private time.
“Our intention was never to offend anyone on the staff,” he told FOX 8 Cleveland. “That’s the last thing, certainly, that we would want to do. But we wanted to provide that opportunity for staff members who wanted to support one another.”
“We will move this to outside email and communicate privately with people who want to be involved,” Wise added.
But some residents opine that they don’t see anything wrong with teachers and other staff members sharing prayer requests while school is in session, since the prayer chain is voluntary and only for those who wish to receive the communication.
“My thought was, if you don’t want to participate, that’s fine,” said resident Nancy Finley. “But I see absolutely no harm in doing the prayer chain. I think it personally is a wonderful thing.”