Don’t misuse moment of silence, FFRF chastises Va. school board czimmerman@ffrf.org (Casandra Zimmerman) News Release Archives – Freedom From Religion Foundation – Freedom From Religion Foundation

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Stop using moments of silence to recite Christian prayers at official meetings, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging a Virginia school board.
FFRF Staff Attorney Christopher Line has sent a letter to the Buchanan County School Board after being informed that the school board routinely begins its meetings with Christian prayer. Here’s a short excerpt from one such prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, we just thank You again for this evening, God, and our time together. For we thank You, Lord, for the positions you have given to us and pointed us to, Lord, and we ask, God, that You give us wisdom and knowledge.
Starting public school board meetings with a Christian prayer excludes nonreligious or non-Christian students, teachers and parents. Nonreligious Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification with one in four Americans identifying having no religion.
FFRF reminded board members of the unconstitutionality of leading meetings with prayers: “Students and parents have the right— and often have reason— to participate in school board meetings. It is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating for nonreligious citizens to be required to make a public showing of their nonbelief (by not participating) or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their school board members clearly do.” Scheduling or conducting prayer as part of a school board meeting violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
FFRF has also had consistent victories when it comes to prayers at school board meetings, as shown in its legal victory against Chino Valley Unified School District in California.
“Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time and dime,” adds FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The school board, however, cannot lend its power and prestige to religion.”
Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including over 800 members in Virginia.