Target: West Lincoln Attendance Center Principal Jason Case
Goal: Immediately cease prayer in school
The separation of church and state is one of the most essential principles of the United States, clearly established in the Constitution and adamantly defended by the Founding Fathers, politicians, and private citizens alike. Although church and state are supposed to be kept in exclusive spheres, religion often makes its way into government institutions, much of the time via school prayer. Proponents of school prayer make the claim that they have the right to practice their religion; however, the problem is when religion becomes part of the state institution. Such appears to be the case at West Lincoln Attendance Center, a small K-12 school in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
An American Civil Liberty Union report states that the school has “a pervasive policy of prayer and other religious messages into myriad school events and activities.” The ACLU’s interest has prompted West Lincoln School Superintendent, Terry Brister, to investigate. Brister has vowed that if it is discovered that West Lincoln Attendance Center has been openly espousing religious views then corrective actions will be taken. Brister has also stated that some of the allegations seem to be true.
Students and staff are free to hold whatever religious beliefs they choose—another core American ideal. However, it is completely unacceptable for prayer to be institutionalized in a public school. School prayer may create unity between some classmates but can only serve to alienate others. If even one child or staff member at West Lincoln Attendance Center prays to a different god or does not follow any religion then formalized school prayers will certainly ostracize them. They will be viewed as freakish and will be considered outcasts by the rest of the school.
It must not be forgotten that institutional prayer is also against the law. If any parents, students or staff wants to pray in school then they should go to a religious school. Public education receives federal funding and therefore must obey the laws of the land. West Lincoln Attendance Center is not a religious institution, but a public school, open to anyone. Prayer must not be allowed inside its doors. Let West Lincoln Attendance Center know that it is time to follow the law and stop making students outcasts.
Dear Principal Case,
Your school has recently had the misfortune of becoming the epicenter of a deep-seated controversy that dates back to the very genesis of the United States: the battle of church and state. Every American has the right to practice whatever religion or lack thereof they choose. That is an inalienable right of this nation, clearly enumerated in the Constitution. However, that same Constitution also expressly forbids just what West Lincoln Attendance Center has been accused of— melding church and state.
Your school, which I am sure you care about deeply, has been accused of encouraging prayer in class and as a part of school activities. If any staff members or students feel the need to pray than they are perfectly entitled to do it privately or on their own time. The problem is that not necessarily all members of your school hold the same beliefs as the majority. To incorporate prayers systematically into West Lincoln life would ostracize some people, making them a target for bullying and negative treatment. Surely as an educator and caretaker of children you do not want that.
Secondly, and just as importantly, prayer in school is illegal. West Lincoln Attendance Center is not a private institution. It is public, and as long as it is to receive public funds it must obey the laws of this nation. In this nation we practice the separation of church and state. It is that simple. We do not bring religion or god into the public realm; those who wish to pray in school can do it at religious schools.
If practicing a religion brings any members of the West Lincoln Attendance Center any happiness or light in their life than I am truly happy for them and encourage them to continue their worship; it is their right as an American and as a human. However, I must implore you to put an end to any official use of religion in your school, it is both illegal and detrimental to students. You are supposed to provide them with a balanced and secular education. There is no room for prayer to be incorporated into that. I hope you take these allegations seriously and take any corrective steps necessary.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: BaronBrian via flickr