November 20, 2018 (Family Research Council) – Christianity isn't a disease – but a Texas school was determined to treat it like one. At Honey Grove Middle School, a group of students were “caught” praying at lunch in the cafeteria – and quarantined.
“Y'all don't do that again,” said Principal Lee Frost, who walked over to the group and stopped them. If the students wanted to keep praying, he told them the next day, they'd better move behind a curtain, meet alone outside, or hide out in the gym. In other words, they couldn't be anywhere where anyone could see them. But the kids weren't doing anything wrong – and their parents got First Liberty Institute involved to prove it.
In a letter to the Honey Grove School District, attorneys pointed out that students shouldn't have to be “exiled” to pray for one another. “The right to pray is constitutionally protected activity… By mandating that Hannah and the other students hide when they pray, Principal Frost sends a message to Hannah [Allen] and all the other students in the school that prayer is illegitimate, disfavored, and should not occur in public…Even Establishment Clause concerns cannot justify such treatment. Any perceived danger in students seeing their classmates praying is no greater than the danger in students seeing prayer banned from public view.”
Late last week, Honey Grove got the message. “To the school district's credit,” First Liberty attorney Keisha Russell explained on Friday's “Washington Watch,” they “respond[ed] immediately.” Although there was some concern that the cafeteria prayer is disruptive, they agreed to let Hannah and her friends continue their lunchtime tradition. From now on, Keisha said, they won't be “forced to hide or go into isolation to exercise their faith. And I think that's important for their peers to see – their friends being free to exercise their religion, and also voice whatever speech they feel is necessary. In this case, it was private student speech, and the school really isn't permitted to ostracize the students because that speech is religious…”
The important point for parents, Keisha made sure to say, is that “student speech is highly protected in the law.” If your son or daughter is being silenced or censored at school, stand up and fight back! The Constitution, Supreme Court, and Department of Education are on your side!
Published with permission from the Family Research Council.