Thursday, November 03, 2011

ACLU court victories mean teachers in two Tenn. counties can't pray during 'See You at the Pole'

In Middle Tennessee's Sumner and Wilson counties, where the American Civil Liberties Union won church-and-state separation lawsuits that ended parent prayer groups and Gideons International Bible distribution, thousands of students and parents gathered to pray this year during "See You at the Pole" events, which call for student-led prayer around school flag poles, are prevalent in rural areas. Matt Anderson and Jennifer Easton of The Tennessean report that teachers attended the events, but their participation could only extend so far before being in violation of the First Amendment.

Anderson and Easton report that in Wilson County, such events must be student-led, but teachers can participate in everything except prayer. In Sumner County, employees were told "that if they choose to pray on campus, it must be done out of sight and earshot of students." Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU of Tennessee, said in a statement that See You at the Pole events are constitutional so long as they are student-initiated and student-led.

Some students participating in the events prayed for the ACLU and teachers who couldn't participate. Others said they understood the new rule because they wouldn't want teachers promoting any religion more than any other. Thaddeus Scwartz, president of Secular Life, a local group for non-Christians, told Anderson and Easton that he support teachers' rights to practice their beliefs, but added school is not an appropriate place in which to do so. (Read more)

No comments: