ACLU Demands Mississippi Principal Stop ‘Pervasive’ School Prayer

A principal comes under fire for hanging crosses and allegedly leading religious exercises.

The ACLU is taking action against a principal in the South who has been leading students in prayer. (Photo: Joey Celis )
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

The debate over school prayer has been raging for decades and it doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon.

This week, the ACLU demanded that a K-12 principal in Mississippi put away his crosses and end the practice of school-led prayer.

Bear Atwood of the ACLU of Mississippi told TakePart that Principal Jason Case's actions are a "blatant violation of the establishment clause," which states that public schools cannot include official prayer or other religious exercise and messages in schools.

The atmosphere at the Lincoln County school, she says, is "quite pervasive."

More: Missouri Protects Kids’ Right to Pray in Schools

Atwood explains, "Students say prayer at assemblies and athletic events, teachers lead the students in prayer in classrooms, before meals, and before exams. There are religious icons on the wall...and sometimes they carry a Christian flag as part of their color guard. The principal of the school tells teachers to look up bible verses and preaches to them at faculty meetings."

The ACLU isn't against prayer at school if it is led by students, Atwood says. The problem is when it's the teachers or faculty members who are leading a religious activity. Yesterday, according to Atwood, students in Lincoln County "apparently held a student-led prayer outside the school." There's no reason, she says, that kids can't do that.

Cases such as this are popping up across the country—most notably in the Bible Belt South.

A few weeks ago, an Arkansas preschool owner found a loophole in the school prayer ban and had his kids sing a prayer instead of speaking it.

TakePart journalist Suzi Parker spoke with Steve Siebold, author of the book Sex, Politics and Religion: How Delusional Thinking is Destroying America, about the preschool owner's actions.

Siebold said, "A prayer is a prayer, whether you simply speak it or sing it, and it's embarrassing for someone who should know better to try and play the system. School students are free to pray privately and to whatever God they believe in..."

What restrictions do you think should be put in place when it comes to prayer in schools? Share your thoughts in comments.

Jenny is the Education Editor at TakePart. She has been writing for TakePart since 2009 and previously worked in film and television development. She has taught English in Vietnam and tutors homeless children in Los Angeles. Email Jenny | @jennyinglee | TakePart.com

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