A school district in New Hampshire is being praised by the Alliance Defending Freedom for allowing a mother of two students to pray on campus each morning before students arrive.
“The Constitution should be the only permission slip students and parents need to exercise their freedom of speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco.
Tedesco commended Concord High School officials for “not caving to” the demands of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group that seeks to remove religion from the public square.
The Concord Monitor reported the high school is allowing the mother, Lizarda Urena, to pray in silence on the campus for a few minutes each morning.
Urena began praying on campus last February after bullets were found in a school restroom, ADF said. At the time, she had asked the principal for permission to pray on campus for everyone’s safety.
School officials said that would be all right.
But educators later expressed concern that it could look like the school was promoting her actions, and the case came to a head when FFRF complained to the school board. The school eventually told the mother she would not be able to continue.
At that point ADF got into action.
The organization told school officials in a letter: “Contrary to FFRF’s misleading assertions, permitting a parent to come on campus over half an hour before the start of school to pray for the school’s administrators, teachers, and students is not a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court has unequivocally ruled that there is a distinction between the government permitting speech and endorsing speech – a distinction that FFRF ignores in demanding the censorship of Ms. Urena’s prayers.”
ADF said it’s “a fundamental premise that parental involvement in their children’s education is good for students.”
“Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the education of their children,” the letter said.
“Parents have legitimate rights to come to their children’s school for many purposes, whether to drop off a forgotten book, meet with a teacher to discuss behavioral problems, or stop by to offer a prayer of support and protection,” the letter continued.
The letter from Tedesco said the Supreme Court has made clear “there is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.”
Superintendent Chris Rath told the Monitor administrators would continue to keep an eye on the situation to make sure campus visitor and other policies are followed.