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.
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.”