After court ruling, activists push prayer into schools


HR King
May 29, 2001
A Michigan superintendent is pondering whether coaches should lead students in pre-game prayer. A school board member in Florida wants her district to teach students about prayer and offer religious studies. In Hawaii, the leader of a faith- and family-focused activism group sees a path to altering state policy that says public-school employees cannot initiate prayer on campus.
A month has passed since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Washington state football coach who knelt at midfield to pray and was joined by student-athletes. The court wrote, in a 6-3 decision, that Bremerton High School assistant coach Joseph Kennedy’s prayers were protected by the Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and religious exercise, and that the district was wrong to discipline him for what the majority saw as a private act.
In response, families, teachers and activists are preparing to push religious worship into public schools nationwide — working to blur the line dividing prayer and pedagogy and promising emotional, spiritual and educational benefits for students. Some school officials are listening: In at least three states, Illinois, Alabama and Oregon, school personnel have said they are reviewing their policies on employee prayer.
“Our nation has lost its way in having lost a belief of a higher power,” said Christi Fraga, a Miami-Dade school board member who in May successfully proposed establishing an annual day of prayer in her district. “So in my community, there has been a cry for help — a cry to allow prayer in our schools.” Fraga added of the court’s ruling: “I hope it brings back our country to its foundation.”
Those who say faith should play a role in public schools are thrilled with their gains and eager to push for more next school year. They cite not only the court’s decision for Kennedy but also a June ruling in which the court declared that Maine cannot prevent religious schools from receiving public tuition grants permitted for other private schools.
In other places, though, educators say not much will change — largely because coach-led prayer at games and invocations before school board meetings were already happening.
The fiercest advocates for church-state separation also concede they were fighting an uphill battle even before the court’s ruling. Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said many districts routinely ignore the string of 1960s and 1970s Supreme Court decisions establishing that public schools cannot require students to recite prayers, cannot allow teachers to lead students in prayer and generally cannot promote or inhibit religion at school.
Gaylor said her foundation, a nonprofit founded in the late 1970s, is constantly fighting back against coaches who lead prayers with students at school or school officials who schedule prayer into the school day. In an average year, school incidents make up 50 percent of the group’s caseload, she said.
“We were mopping up anyway; it was like whack-a-mole,” Gaylor said.
Some mothers and fathers also fear what the next school year may bring. Those who practice non-Christian religions warn that, in most of America, “prayer” will by default mean Christian prayer, leaving their children alienated and isolated — while those who do not practice any faith worry their children will be coerced into espousing values and beliefs their parents do not share.
Among them is Kristi Robertson, a 33-year-old atheist in Oklahoma whose daughter discovered God and Christianity when her third-grade public-school teacher led the class in daily prayer. Four years later, Aurora, alone in her family, still prays and goes to church.
“There is nothing I can do about that now; she has made her choices to be religious,” Robertson said. “And if she’s invited to pray at school, she’s going to. If I do hear about it, I would probably complain again — but for other students. It is too late for her.”

‘A little bit of a spirit helps you’​

Bill DeFrance, superintendent of Eaton Rapids Public Schools in Michigan, has moonlighted for years as a high school soccer referee. When religious schools compete, he has listened as coaches intone team prayers before and after a game. Still, he has never seen a public-school coach lead a prayer.
A Bible that belongs to Aurora Robertson, 12, sits on a shelf in her home. (Nick Oxford for The Washington Post)
But in light of the Supreme Court ruling, and pending guidance from state officials, DeFrance said he is open to the idea of coach-led prayer.
If the Michigan Department of Education or the Michigan High School Athletic Association “said they’d like to work … about how you can incorporate prayer into sports events for kids, I’d certainly take it to the [school] board to say, ‘We could help pilot this; we could try this,’ ” DeFrance said. (A spokesman for the state athletic association emailed The Washington Post, saying: “This is strictly an individual school district issue in Michigan. We have no part in this decision-making process.” A spokesman for the Education Department wrote in an email that his agency “has not sent any guidance to local school districts on this issue at this time. We have made a request of our state attorney general’s office for a review of the decision.”)
If done well, DeFrance added, coach-led prayer could yield advantages for his district’s 2,000 students, serving as a way to learn about other cultures.
“I could see some real interesting things like, ‘Okay, Bill, you’re Hindu, you lead the prayer this week,’ and give some background about why Hindus pray,” he said. Plus, “I do think sometimes having a little bit of a spirit helps you to play.”
Former Bremerton High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
In Hawaii, Eva Andrade, president and chief executive of faith-based activist group the Hawaii Family Forum, is also eyeing ways to introduce prayer into schools and school competitions. People of faith feel unsafe at school, Andrade said, threatened by a 1947 Hawaii Board of Education policy that prohibits “prayer and other religious observances … organized or sponsored by schools.” The Supreme Court ruling, she said, offers the first chance in decades to change that policy — and her group is determined to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I would like them to allow people to bring their faith into their position without any fear,” Andrade said.
State-level advocacy is afoot in other places, too: In Ohio, an hour after the Supreme Court’s ruling was published, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted urged school districts to review and update their policies on school prayer. And a few months before the ruling, in Kentucky, a Republican lawmaker and a Lexington rabbi teamed up on a bill requiring public-school students to silently pray, meditate or reflect in class.
Florida passed a similar law in June 2021 that requires a moment of silence each day. Although the law drew strong criticism from advocates of church-state separation, it thrilled Fraga, who persuaded her colleagues to hold a National Day of Prayer every May for the district’s roughly 330,000 students.
Fraga’s original proposal suggested school employees facilitate prayer-related events and programs. In an interview, she said she envisioned teachers taking the day to instruct students about the history of prayer and how different faiths worship.



HR Legend
Gold Member
Nov 13, 2007
This shit always gets shutdown once the Satanist start wanting their chance for prayer too. I'm not shocked the religious hypocrites don't think Satanism deserves their voice in these situations. Logic never is strong with them


HR Legend
Gold Member
Jun 16, 2003
Omaha, NE
This shit always gets shutdown once the Satanist start wanting their chance for prayer too. I'm not shocked the religious hypocrites don't think Satanism deserves their voice in these situations. Logic never is strong with them
Need to get that Muslim call to prayer blaring from the loud speakers just before the Pledge and daily announcements.


HR King
Apr 17, 2003
This shit always gets shutdown once the Satanist start wanting their chance for prayer too. I'm not shocked the religious hypocrites don't think Satanism deserves their voice in these situations. Logic never is strong with them
The theocrats will simply shut down any non-"christian" voices and it wouldn't surprise me at all for this SC to back them up. This prayer case should have been a slam-dunk affirmation of the separation of church and state.

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