Florida high school officials going to court for praying

Florida high school officials going to court for praying

Pensacola, Fla., Sep 16, 2009 / 03:43 pm (CNA).- In what critics are characterizing as the “criminalization of prayer,” a principal and an athletic director at a Florida high school are facing criminal contempt charges for violating a federal order prohibiting prayer at school events.
Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman at Pace High School in the Florida panhandle county of Santa Rosa could face fines, jail time and loss of their retirement benefits.
During a luncheon to honor those who contributed toward the public school’s athletic Field House, Principal Lay reportedly asked Freeman to offer a blessing for the meal. Students were not present at the time of the blessing.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) charged that the action constituted a violation of a previous court order and accused Lay and Freeman of contempt of court.


This lady prayed before a group of adults after being told not to. No religious doctrine in the world gives us the right to disrespect people like that. She probably felt as if she was being firm in her wanting to pray but it wasn’t welcome. She turned herself into a martyr for no good reason.

Certinally, we should defend our religious freedoms. We do have to guard and protect them with our lifes. HOWEVER, religion dosn’t give us the right to blatantly disregard other people’s feelings.

A few weeks ago I had an co-worker/employee who insisted on wearing a ankle-bracelet with bells. It was extremely annoying and she rattled like Marley’s ghost. I told her that it was pretty but the sound was annoying me. I’ve halted things that were annoying to her, as she’s often found fault in my behavior. I, typically, don’t mention things to her because it gets laughed off. She ignore my request. The next day she wore it again I asked her if she could refrain from wearing it during work and she refused. I looked in the dress code and there was nothing against it. Three days into this I pulled rank and told her I expected her to not wear that again becuase it was very much annoying. I respected her and I expected at least as much respect as that. She boiled over in anger and said that I wasn’t to tell her what to wear or when. That it wasn’t in the dress code, therefore she could. I do have the power to fire her, and at that point I wanted to. It was insubordination, and not the first time she didn’t listen. At any rate it was solved when I stated that she was going to have to respect me at least half as much as I respected her. She was going to have to listen to me when I gave her a duty or asked her not to do something.

I think this prayer situation is much the same way. She was asked not to, and did anyway. Because this was all adults at this lunch, it isn’t about corrupting kids.

Until I have more information she has very little of my sympathy.

According to the article, it was a consent order – meaning that they agreed that the court should enter the order. They then disobeyed it anyway.

If that’s true, they deserve what they get.

I looked in the dress code and there was nothing against it. Three days into this I pulled rank and told her I expected her to not wear that again becuase it was very much annoying.

Why didn’t you just change the dress code instead of forcing your own ideas of what is right or wrong on a subordinate, then acting surprised when challenged over a rule that only exists on your say-so? Wouldn’t that have eliminated the appearance of arbitrariness?

Regarding this case: I live one town away, and it’s been in the paper a couple times a week since the original challenge. Typical case, a community with a very strong faith tradition, been doing things like opening school events with a prayer no one is forced to participate in, etc. Enter the ACLU and two students - offended - and we have a legal challenge that the town cannot afford to defend against. So they stipulated ceasing the practices they were challenged with, which included that the purpose of these prayers (says the ACLU) were an attempt to proselytize.

The court order covered the specific people involved. It was not one of those two who offered the prayer in question (blessing before a meal), nor was it on school property or during school hours. Another person was asked to say the blessing and did.

It is interesting to note and a testimony to the students that when one of their classmates was prohibited from speaking at graduation last year because of a fear that she “might” offer a prayer, or at least mention God in a spirit of thanksgiving, a result of the legal challenge by the ACLU, the students themselves organized their own form of protest. About 1/3 of them marched into graduation with white tape on their caps in the form of a cross. As soon as they completed filing in and the MC asked all to be seated, the students all remained standing and recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison with most in attendance joining them. Two of the students are athiests, and they prayed right alongside the rest of the class. It was a matter of principle to them. The standing ovation and thunderous applause that followed lasted over 8 minutes, and only stopped because of the persistent pleas that the ceremony must move along.

So how silly is it that everyone has to have the protection of the Federal Court to prevent the trauma of listening to a girl acknowledge God with a thank you, but it’s NOT a problem at all to have to sit and listen to a whole-class recitation of the Lord’s Prayer? That ought to tell you right there it’s not an issue of prayer but one of control. Someone doesn’t like what you do, you’re too stupid to figure it out for yourself, so they feel a compelling need to step in and tell you how they want you to run your life.

The ACLU and the Federal Courts insist that prayer has no place in public life, in public buildings, and in education period. This community strongly disagrees and is not cowing to threats. They do not consider this fight to have begun, let alone be over yet.

Isn’t prayer protected by freedom of speech?

I can see why people would be outraged. Afterall praying before a meal is so offensive. I would feel better if a swat team was brought in and tasered the offenders.

Not when a public official leads it in a setting that implies coercion – which is pretty much assumed at public school events (this is why the students “got away” with it at graduation; they aren’t government officials).

And, even if it were protected, if they agreed to a court order that they not pray at school events, then they can’t do it at school events. That what “order” means!

What if the coach started leading every team meeting and meal with the Shahada, then giving preferred treatment to the players who recited it with him?

I think you have confused two separate incidents; the story is referring to two men, the principal and athletic director. There was, evidently, another incident involving a woman a while back.

Just saw on the news, the two men were found not guilty in this case!

And, even if it were protected, if they agreed to a court order that they not pray at school events, then they can’t do it at school events. That what “order” means!

This was not a school event. This was an event held AT a church where the group (which included school officials) were having a banquet to say thanks to the supporters who raised funds for renovations of a field house and a scoreboard. At the banquet, one who was under court sanction asked another to say a blessing. The ACLU claimed that even though it was a private banquet and on church property, they were not allowed to pray because it had something to do with school business.

And the ACLU was promptly shot down.

Story here.

The ACLU knows in most of these cases that if it gets to the courtroom they will lose. They gamble, hoping people will be scared of the possible penalties and back off. They picked the wrong people in the wrong place for fear tactics to work. These folks are very strong in their faith and aren’t going to be pushed around with threats. Every time there is one of these challenges the local newspaper editorial page overflows with letters of support, prominent citizens in the community come out supporting them, and with this case, even members of the Florida State and Florida US legislature offered a public, unified statement of support.

You’d think the ACLU would take a hint.

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