Minnesota School Bus Driver Removed From Route for Praying With Students

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A school bus driver and pastor in Minnesota was recently removed from his route for praying with students on the way to school.

George Nathaniel, 54, has been driving students to Nasha Shkola charter school for the past year, and over the winter months, he began a tradition of prayer during the trip. The school is focused on Russian culture, and many of the children identify as Christian. Some of their families came to America to escape persecution, reports state.

“The students would volunteer to lead the prayer,” Nathaniel told the Star Tribune.

He says he informed parents about the prayer practice, so he was surprised last week when he was taken off the route over the matter.

Muk Musa, owner of Quality Care Transportation, told the Star Tribune that the school received complaints that Nathaniel “was influencing minors to the point where he was forcing them to pray.”

However, Nathaniel says that while he wants to lead others to Christ and believes that school prayer should be restored, he has never forced anyone to pray.

He believes that the some are rather upset with him for disciplining students for being rude. He moved those students to another seat.

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Nathaniel also believes that it is his right to pray with interested students.

“That’s where the Constitution comes in,” he said. “You’ve got the freedom to exercise your religious beliefs.”

Nathaniel was fired four years ago in another city for also praying with students on the bus route. Musa says that Quality Care Transportation has not fired Nathaniel, but they haven’t put him on a route at this time. He believes that the pastor is “not going to change.”

As previously reported, in 2016, students at Hollister Middle School and other supportive schools in Missouri began joining together in a large circle to pray at lunchtime after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) submitted a complaint about a youth pastor who had been recorded praying with teens there.

Photos of the students holding hands and praying surfaced online with the hashtag #praywithhollister.

“Ever wonder what kind of impact a group of kids showing glory to God looks like? It’s amazing,” wrote Emily Richardson of Buffalo High School. “I’m completely speechless and amazed as I watch a room full of kids publicly pray to God during lunch!”

“Blessed to be a part of a school where so many students stand up for a student-led prayer during lunch,” posted Carley Smith, who posted a photo as well.

The youth pastor agreed to stop praying with students.

Most who oppose adult participation in student prayers believe that it is legal for students to pray voluntarily among themselves, but unconstitutional for a representative of the government to participate in or lead the invocation.

The late President Ronald Reagan once said, “I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God’s help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can’t expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living.”

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  • Ira Pistos

    They hate Jesus. They fear what they hate and they preach the veracity of the very Word they rage against.

    • Guzzman

      Did the pastor ever consider the constitutional rights of the school children? Did he ever consider the possibility that some of the students might not be Christian, and would feel uncomfortable having a school employee leading kids in prayer?

      • Ira Pistos

        “Did the pastor ever consider the constitutional rights of the school children?”

        Naturally we must hope not. Under the onslaught of the current persecution however it is unlikely that it went unconsidered.

        If emergency responders neglected to rescue people on the off chance that rescue would cause them to feel “uncomfortable we would rightly think them vile indeed.
        How much more heinous then to callously disregard another’s place in eternity.

        As shown by the apostles, when the petty governments of man stand against duty to God then the authority of those governments on the matter is beneath contempt.

        • TheKingOfRhye

          I almost don’t believe what I just read. So….you’re basically saying you don’t care any about either the Constitution (since you did say “naturally we must hope” it wasn’t considered), or the possibility of other children being non-Christian?

          • Ira Pistos

            I sadly believe what I just read. You’re saying that you set yourself above God and are tickled to send children to hell.

          • TheKingOfRhye

            Well, since I don’t believe in either God or hell….

          • Chet

            With your above comment regarding your particular faith (in yourself) Why visit sites normally directed to believing Jews and Christians? What believers would care to visit atheistic websites? None…

          • TheKingOfRhye

            Just mainly because I often see stories or comments on stories that I take issue with here. I’ve seen believers on atheist sites doing the same thing. And, anyway, someone’s gotta keep the balance in the Force, you know….

          • Chet

            I see, Sir, yet I would not be one who would seek out atheistic sites just to argue and/or make for possible uncivil exchanges. May God bless you, believe or no. And who knows, some time it may be very possible God’s Holy Spirit will open your eyes and enlighten you to the truth of His Word, the Holy Bible, and present His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ of Calvary, to you. Remember, all us nowadays Christians were formerly unbelievers as well enjoying our SIN, whatever the fancy even as we would party, party, party till one day we’d ultimately party ourselves into Hell. Thanks to this merciful, kind and loving living Christ, that is no more to be and Heaven is now assured at the end of the believer’s days.

          • Bob Johnson

            I’m curious about your frequent use of the phrase “believing Jews.” What do you think they believe in?

          • Chet

            Some Jews believe nothing, many believe the Torah, others the entire OT, still others have come to understand and accept the Lord Jesus Christ of Calvary as their long awaited Messiah. And multitudes of others are yet to come to this wonderful, merciful, loving Christ as time advances. No difference, really, from that of Gentiles other than the Jews, specifically, being those of the Abrahamic promise. Within mankind’s makeup, the Word of God declares all men are sinners by nature and practice and all are in need of the Christ of Calvary.

            Some men believe nothing, thus setting themselves up as the final authority or god.

            So, whether Jew or Gentile, without Christ all men are yet in their SIN, lost and on their way to eternal darkness in the madhouse of humanity, the place known as Hell. In contrast, any and all who will but believe the good news gospel, repent and turn to this living Christ as Messiah, Lord and Saviour shall be cleansed from all unrighteousness, washed whiter than snow in Christ’s precious blood and forgiven of all his myriad SINS. And, get this, not only does Holy God Almighty forgive all one’s SIN via the finished work of Christ on the Cross in concert with the empty tomb, He, God then even forgets them. No one, some supposed god or otherwise can do this. IMO, things are falling into place, things are being shaken up and the trumpet’s blast seems more likely very soon. Then again, there were those who had such opine in ages past. God bless…

          • TheKingOfRhye

            are tickled to send children to hell.

            The children are going to go to hell if they can’t have their bus driver lead them in their prayers?

      • Susan Perelka

        The article says that the students asked for prayer, if that is accurate, then they were not forced, and if it is student led, then it is constitutional. It also says a student was disciplined for being rude on the bus and they retaliated in this manner. If that is true, than seeking vengeance by complaining about those who voluntarily pray, then that person is seeking to force others to stop praying. I agree, we should not “force” anyone, God doesn’t tell His people to “force” others to believe. The question here is, who really was the one forcing their ways onto others? If the article is accurate, the answer is the one trying to force others to stop doing something (prayer). If the one student wasn’t forced to participate while others are praying, then no case.

        • Guzzman

          The original story was from the Star Tribune (April 20, 2018): “A school bus driver says he was taken off his route last week because he was leading students in prayer while driving…”

          I assume the reporting is accurate. I don’t know. Pastor George Nathaniel was fired four years ago for the same infraction of leading students in prayer while driving a school bus.

          I do know that public school employees, acting in an official capacity as government employees, are not permitted to lead or join students in prayer. The federal courts have ruled on similar cases.

          • Chet

            How about dirty jokes and filthy comments, perhaps even laced with hate? Is that okay, sure… No one can define such as it’s really left up to the individual as its simply a gray area. Give us a break…

      • Chet

        Did they ever consider the children might feel uncomfortable if the bus ran over a pot hole, or perhaps developed a flat and the kids had to sit and wait? Give freedom loving Christians and believing Jewish Americans a break, dude…

  • Tree Kangaroo

    The term “atheist fanatics” is redundant. They are all fanatics.

  • james blue

    Well you’ll always see nothing wrong with the driver doing this right up until a driver of a different faith does it.

    • Croquet_Player

      I find it perplexing that some people seem to have so much trouble imagining if the shoe was on the other foot. And that the same law protects them too.

  • Guzzman

    Pastor George again? Seriously? He was fired four years ago for the same infraction of leading students in prayer while driving a school bus.

    Public school employees, acting in an official capacity as government employees, are not permitted to lead or join students in prayer. The federal courts have ruled on virtually identical cases. This is settled law.

  • Ben Welliver

    The Inquisition is alive and well in PC America.

    • Croquet_Player

      No, it’s really not.

      • Ben Welliver

        Oh, so that settles the matter? “It’s not because I said so.”

        FAIL. Since you progs are not the ones being silenced, naturally you say there is no silencing.

        • Croquet_Player

          Is anyone silencing you? Really, who is telling you that you may not speak your mind? You may voice your opinions anywhere on public property. For example, if you live near a public park, you may go stand there in the park, and say whatever you like all day long. (If the park shuts down at 10 p.m., this is not a violation of your public speech, the park is simply closed to everyone until it opens again at 6 a.m., and you may begin again when the park is open.) Who is telling you that you must be silent? Tell me who they are, and I will stand next to you and demand that you are granted your constitutional right to free speech. If you wish to publish a newsletter, and drop it into every mailbox in your city, who is stopping you? Again, I will stand with you. No one is stopping you from saying anything. If anyone is, you may call upon me. I may disagree with everything you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it.

  • Croquet_Player

    Students have a constitutional right to pray on the bus, at school,
    either alone or in groups. They also have a right to be free from school
    authorities attempting to lead them in prayer, or discourage or encourage them from praying. This is actually a wonderfully fair arrangement, which would be immediately clear to anyone who discovered a school official was attempting to lead their child in prayers of a different faith at school. This is not hard to understand either, and it’s odd that so many people seem to be very confused about it.

    • Susan Perelka

      Well said, it is fairly balanced. The problem is when one side or the other tries to swing the scales to only their side.

      • Croquet_Player

        Well, I for one would like to applaud you for taking such a reasonable approach. Here’s a key point that so many people seem to miss. It is not about being “forced”. As in, “the religious bus driver (of any faith) demanded all the students sing along with a religious song. Or say a prayer”. That is obviously wrong. But the reality is far more subtle. What if the bus driver said something like “We all have different religions at home, but here in this bus Vishnu is God, so let’s all sing a little song together about Vishnu while we drive around!” And what if a few of the students chimed in and sang the little Vishnu song? Well, no one is forcing the other students to sing or not sing, but he’s their bus driver, and he’s the person in authority, so maybe we’re all supposed to chime in and sing the song.

        After all, I’m only six years old, and my parents told me to behave nicely and respect my bus driver, my teachers, and be kind to my classmates. Now what? Do you see? No one is “forcing” them to do anything. But they are being coerced. By a person in a position of authority. Students have a constitutional right to be entirely free from any sort of indoctrination at school (or on the bus). It is terribly important that we firmly respect all students’ rights.

        And as far as the law is concerned, people’s characters don’t matter. You could have the grumpiest old lady, who hates everyone and is a horrible and unpleasant neighbor. She claims her driveway is being encroached upon by her next door neighbors. Her next door neighbors are the sweetest little family, beloved pillars of the community, who go out of their way to help anyone in need. But they have a big van, which they slightly drive onto her driveway in order to park on their own property. Under ordinary circumstances this could be solved with a casserole and some friendship. But no, and they go to court. She wins. They drove on her property. The law is not a popularity contest.

  • TheKingOfRhye

    Most who oppose adult participation in student prayers believe that it
    is legal for students to pray voluntarily among themselves, but
    unconstitutional for a representative of the government to participate
    in or lead the invocation.

    Bingo. That’s exactly what we keep saying.

    • Except that on a school bus, it is still religious speech to a captive audience (even non-Christians can hear but cannot leave the area).

      Students have the right to pray silently and individually at anytime during the school day or anywhere else on or off the school ground. It is their freedom to do so. Too, those who wish not to hear the proselytizing must be granted the right not to hear it.

      When they get off the bus and before classes, they have every right to gather and do their praying together.

  • Sorry folks, bu the Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment forbids any government agent (and the driver is one) from proselytizing to a captive audience.

    And ONLY parents have the right to teach their children whatever religion or philosophy they wish without interference from the government or any other group. It’s called freedom of religion (inclusive) not freedom of Christianity (exclusive).

  • poppyw

    Oh, my, the heathen culture police have discovered and removed a Christian virus involved with their children. Heathens, let me make your day. Soon, Jesus our Lord, will remove every Christian from the earth and you won’t be troubled by us anymore. Yes, you will get to enjoy, completely your heathen ways. But, Christian supported hospitals, charities for the poor, medical services,, for the poor, Christian dominated first responders to disaster, all will be gone. Enjoy!

  • American Revolution

    Public school, including busing isn’t a place for a minister to conduct a prayer session.

  • Chet

    Christians and believing Jews, start taking a stand against the paper tiger, FFGP, or Freedom From God’s Presence. They cannot harm you and the most they can do is sue the state or school district. If, by chance they win, and collect tons of taxpayer cash and the school closes simply turn the students out into the streets. It’s guaranteed in very short order the school will somehow find a way to reopen and you can resume as you were. Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus Ye Soldiers Of The Cross… Instead of being a wimp, try emulating Daniel and dare to take a stand and watch God Almighty work things out for His glory and honor. Stop being afraid, for God has not given us the spirit of fear.