Prayers Not Allowed Over PA System at Tennessee School Following Atheist Complaint

WAYNESBORO, Tenn. — Prayers will not be allowed to be presented over the public address system at a school in Tennessee after one of the nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist groups lodged a complaint about a student’s recent prayer during the morning announcements.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter on March 26 to the Superintendent of the Wayne County Board of Education after learning of a video posted to the Tennessee River Valley News Facebook page.

The video showed a female student praying during the morning announcements, and was captioned “How Fridays begin at Wayne County High School in Tennessee.”

“Dear Heavenly Father, I just want to thank You for this day that You’ve given us, Lord,” she began. “And Lord, I want to thank You for the protection that You continue to put over our school, God.”

“I thank You for our country and I ask You to continue to keep us safe here, God, and let us just remember to make decisions that go towards You, Lord,” the student continued. “And Lord, I thank you for Your Son who died on a cross for our sins.”

FFRF quickly sent correspondence to Superintendent Marlon Davis to ask that such practices not be allowed in the future. The Church-State separation group asserted that the allowance was unconstitutional and alienated students who are not Christians.

“The practice of opening each school day with a broadcast religious ritual is illegal,” wrote attorney Christopher Line. “The practice of opening the school day with prayer creates the appearance of school endorsement of religion. This practice must end.”

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“Nothing in the law prevents students, teachers or school administrators from freely exercising their religion on their own time and in their own way,” he stated. “But a public school itself must not broadcast a decidedly religious message to a captive student audience, thereby isolating and excluding those students who are non-Christian or nonreligious.”

Davis has now replied to FFRF, advising that the prayer in the video was not a regular occurrence at the school, but a single instance where a student decided to pray in presenting the announcements that particular morning. However, he also advised that he has directed the principal not to let it happen again.

“This is not a daily practice, but was an occurrence where an FCA student was sharing announcements with the student body and included a prayer as a part of her presentation,” Davis wrote. “I have shared your letter with the principal and directed him to enforce the request to cease.”

View the letter in full here.

FFRF has applauded the move, calling the presentation of prayer in school “divisive.”

As previously reported, while some state that the Constitution prohibits Christianity from being endorsed in public schools, others note that this was not the thinking of a number of the founding fathers.


Dr. Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia. In 1806, he said, “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”

In 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” for students referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.”

View sample pages from Webster’s Blue Back Speller here.

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  • Croquet_Player

    The headline is misleading. Prayers on the loudspeaker as part of the school day were not allowed before the complaint either, but the school was doing it anyway. Students are free to pray at school, alone or in groups. But it can’t be part of official school activities, like morning announcements, even if it’s by a student.

  • james blue

    Pretty sure that’s not allowed at any public school.

  • Carson-Ray Carter

    Allowing atheist groups to bully local government and school boards is a way of life in america now. It is very sad when you can’t even ask God for protection and guidance in a school that is filled with young people that comes from all walks of lives and needs to here word of life and hope. Know God know hope; No God No Hope. And Jesus is real.

    • Tim Matter

      Carson-Ray Carter- “in a school that is filled with young people that comes from all walks of lives.”
      That’s kind of the point. It is a public school where kids attend that come from families with many different religions, and many different branches of the same religion that don’t agree on everything. You wouldn’t want your kids hearing the prayers of a Catholic, Mormon, J.W. or a Universalist where they slip in bits of teachings you would consider heretical. Other parents shouldn’t have their kids hear school sponsored prayers that might contradict their religion.

    • james blue

      There is nothing stopping students and staff asking for God’s guidance.

    • Samwise

      Lying does not help your argument.

      Any student and any teacher may ask for God’s guidance and protection. Students can meet and pray together. Teachers can meet and pray on personal time.

      Tell the truth.

      The only thing that is forbidden is for people to use government authority or government property (i.e. public address systems) to make other students listen to their prayers to their deity.

      • Bezukhov

        How are Good, Bible Thumping Christians supposed to show a Heathen like you that they are Holier Than Thou except by screaming their prayers over the school PA system?

    • Guzzman

      Upholding the Constitution is not “bullying.” The issue of using a public school PA system to broadcast prayers and religious exercises to a captive audience of students was settled over 50 years ago in School Dist. of Abington Tp. v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963). Students are free to pray at school as long as it is not disruptive or imposed on others.

      The school admitted its error and took swift corrective action. Please explain how that amounts to bullying.

  • robert boe

    Prayer not be allowed but people in all schools sure use it very quickly when the bullets are flying around them . And why is it atheist like to say rip when a atheist dies .rip is Christian . Decay and stink and rot away
    Like road kill would be atheist.

    • Samwise

      people in all schools sure use it very quickly when the bullets are flying around them

      Evidence, please.

      Does a person in fear of drowning suddenly start believing in and praying to the Greek God Neptune? Not likely.

      And a person who does not believe in the Tooth Fairy won’t call on her when they need a root canal.

      People who do believe in supernatural beings fo not pray to them.

    • Croquet_Player

      Prayer is allowed in schools. Students may pray, alone or in together groups.

  • Samwise

    The authors of the Constitution established the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled over 50 years ago against school sponsored prayer. Each and very single student gets to attend public school without being led in prayer against their personal beliefs.

    • Edward Silha

      Not only did the authors of the Constitution establish the Supreme Court, they specified that the Court was the sole arbiter of the meaning of the constitution. Heather Clark, the author of the article, does a disservice to the readers and the public by writing “As previously reported, while some state that the Constitution prohibits Christianity from being endorsed in public schools, others note that this was not the thinking of a number of the founding fathers.”

      Does she naively believe that the justices are unfamiliar with the history of the constitution? Does she believe her interpretation of the constitution should override that of the Court?

  • Ginger

    Around the Bible have raged, in varying fury, the storms of the ages.
    All the moral and intellectual forces of the centuries have mustered their
    strength in attack and defense of this one book, and its product, Christianity.
    The attack, and therefore the defense, have altered in form only to increase in
    intensity as the centuries have passed. Never for a moment has the battle
    ceased. It is still raging, read “in
    whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins”
    Colossians 1:14 KJV. Does your version
    pass muster? What everyone forgets or does not know we have the children
    of darkness among us the tares of the world (Matthew 13 KJV) they have always
    been the troublemakers and word-smiths of the world. John KJV 5:22 “For the Father judgeth no
    man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:” (they are sticking their
    neck out because the Son will judge them).
    They may think they are getting away with what they are doing in the
    flesh. It is their spirit that will be mortal spirits meaning libel to die,
    when they go to judgment. The destroyer is starting to use his full force against Christianity, because the coming of Jesus Christ signed his death warrant. Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; [KJV]

  • Stupid Atheist

    Couldn’t we compromise and allow the students to hear Matthew 6:5 read aloud every morning…?

  • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    We had prayer in Canadian schools until at least 2000. Bible reading, too. It was pretty wonderful.