School District Moves Back-to-School Prayer Service Out of Elementary School Following Atheist Complaint

PrayerOCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — A Mississippi public school district recently moved its back-to-school prayer service out of an elementary school and into a local church after an atheist activist group contacted officials to assert that the practice is unconstitutional.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to the Ocean Springs School District after learning that the district had partnered with a number of area churches for the event, which was to be held at Oak Park Elementary School on Aug. 2.

“It is inappropriate for a public school to promote or partner with a church and it is a constitutional violation for that school to join forces with a church to put on an inherently religious event such as a back-to-school prayer service,” the letter, addressed to Superintendent Bonita Coleman-Potter, read.

FFRF believes that Coleman-Potter planned to participate.

“It does not matter that this event occurs outside normal school hours because prayers at other after-school events such as football games and graduations have been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court,” it continued. “Partnering with local churches to put on this prayer service also constitutes excessive entanglement between government and religion.”

FFRF then requested that the event be cancelled, asserting, “It does not matter that individuals within the community prefer this type of event, it is still illegal for the school to host and cannot be allowed to take place.”

According to the Mississippi Press, instead of facing a potential legal battle over the matter, the district decided to move the event from Oak Park Elementary School to First Baptist Church of Oak Park.

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FFRF says it is pleased with the outcome of the situation.

“Our public schools exist to educate, not to indoctrinate,” Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “And it’s vital that superintendents not only ensure activities remain secular, but are role models for the district.”

As previously reported, in early America, 123 of the first 126 colleges established in America were founded on Christian principles. Harvard University, named after Pastor John Harvard, held the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.”

“Let every scholar be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning…” its student manual read.

Princeton’s motto was “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” The first president of Princeton, Pastor Jonathan Dickinson, said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

Yale also wrote in its requirements in 1745, “All scholars shall live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s word, diligently reading the Scriptures…”


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