Calls are being made for a California school district to end the prayers before each board meeting.
End the Prayers
The Board of Trustees for the Gateway Unified School District (GUSD) decided to start each meeting with prayer last month. Cherrill Clifford, a trustee, made the move, which was ultimately approved by a 3-2 vote. But some parents quickly voiced their objections.
“This is a public meeting,” one parent called out. “Separation of church and state.”
In an effort to “defend the constitutional rights of students and parents,” one group is now calling for the practice to end immediately. That is the FFRF, or the Freedom from Religion Foundation. It’s a national organization that represents non-theists, agnostics, and atheists who fights to preserve the Establishment Clause.
FFRF argues that even while local law permits prayer at other council meetings, GUSD is taking on “unnecessary liability.” And by implementing the practice, it welcomes “possible financial pressure.”
Prayers in Board Meetings
“Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way,” FFRF said. “However, the Board ought not to lend its power and prestige to religion or coerce attendees into participating in religious exercise.”FFRF is asking GUSD to respond in writing with its proposal to “resolve” the issue. They said that GUSD is directly violating the constitutional rights of any kids involved at board meetings, as well as the “almost one in three Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated.”
GUSD was contacted by The National Desk (TND) for comment, but a district spokesman claimed the district will not be commenting on the situation.
Despite this being a developing discussion, the meeting started with a prayer.
The prayer is then led by Trustee Lindsi Haynes, who can be heard declaring that the meeting time will be “committed” to “God.”
“We all here, Lord, I believe want what’s best for the kids. And so, God, I just pray that you would help us to move forward from this moment, God, that that would be at the forefront of all of our minds,” Haynes said. “The board, the superintendent, the staff, the parents, the grandparents, the community that, that would be our goal. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
While some parents seemed surprised by the recitation, others nodded and joined the board in saying “amen.”
Header image: Gateway Unified School District [@Shasta Scout]. YouTube, 19 January 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffBBCZtuj_M
Reference: ABC 3340 News