Florida High School Principal and Athletic Director Face Six Months Over Prayers

thumb_praying_handsIt is not that Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and school athletic director Robert Freeman do not have a prayer, they had too many prayers. The two officials defied a settlement barring prayers on constitutional ground and now face six-month sentences — a matter of widespread protest among parents.

While I often defend free speech and free exercise on these pages, I must confess little sympathy for these officials. While the two officials have been made heroes among local families, they are accused of knowingly violated a settlement agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union and a court order. According to court papers, they defied the clear law barring such prayers in public schools. The Pace High School teachers handbook actually told teachers to “embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.”

A federal court order prohibited, among other things, any prayer in schools, “reading from a sacred text”, “calling upon a deity to offer guidance, assistance or a blessing” as well as religious services. The two men are accused of intentionally violating that court order.

The officials not only decided that they were above the Constitution but openly defied their own Santa Rosa County School District, which agreed to comply with federal law. If officials are allowed to claim exemption from federal and constitutional law, they could preserve segregation or advance sectarian faiths as a matter of local values. It is not clear what these officials are teaching their students about citizenship in such actions. No one is preventing private prayer. They are employees of a school district which agreed to comply with constitutional standards that apply to thousands of schools across the country. If they decided that they were above such limits, they were wrong. While I do not see the need for jail, there is a basis for termination based on the alleged violations if proven.

For the full story, click here.

24 thoughts on “Florida High School Principal and Athletic Director Face Six Months Over Prayers”

  1. Having played high school football in Texas, I understand completely where ron and donatella are coming from. And they are wrong. The actions of the school officials in this instance are being treated as an honorable species of civil disobedience. But there is nothing honorable about acts of disobedience which are bereft of moral discernment. To the contrary, the administrators in this instance are determined to impose, with the approval of most parents, the theology of patriotism as a matter of school policy. This is a theology that insists that conservative Protestant doctrine is the foundation of civil society and must therefore be incorporated into education policy to insure American exceptionalism. That is why the concept of separation of church and state is repugnant to these folks.

  2. Alex W writes: BTW, why hasn’t any Board of Education, or the Federal Dept. of Education, moved to make the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli mandatory reading material in all levels of education. This might help weed out the problem at its roots.

    what is this treaty of tripoly?

  3. Alex W writes: Since religion, by its nature, commonly possesses “revealed truth,” these people are, at the very least, honest in their belief system. Historically, any religious sect able to exert complete power has been more than willing to impose its own theocracy and, at the very least, persecute those who did not accept and follow their “revealed truth.” At various times, Catholics, Muslims and various Protestant sects have shown this capability. Given the state of affairs in Israel, I think that the ultra-Orthodox would love to do the same.

    You make a valuable point…. everyone wants to think god loves them best because they say the right combination or words at the right times of the day and the right days of the year. Ultra Orthodox Jews are no different in that aspect than others except for one detail.. they are willing, for the most part, to live within a plural society. they don’t use their pulpits to create shadow governments and while they have caused something of a ruckus in New York state over special education and a few other things, you really don’t tend to hear much about them. why? because generally they don’t care what the goyim do. they are not out t convert anyone. that is the big difference between them and evangelical christians.
    ultra orthodox Jews would never dream of sending their children to public school with bibles and orders to organize Jewish prayers before sports.

  4. _________________________________

    {Quote from wiki:

    Article 11 has been a point of contention in disputes on the doctrine of separation of church and state as it applies to the founding principles of the United States.

    Article 11 reads:

    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    Advocates of the separation of church and state claim[17] that this text constitutes evidence that the United States Government was not founded on the Christian religion. The Senate’s ratification was only the third recorded unanimous vote of 339 votes taken. The treaty was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and two New York papers, with no evidence of any public dissent.

    End Quote}
    _________________________________

  5. AY,

    I commend you for keeping our agreement. Let’s please not discuss this further, but you should try to do the same with the other regular, regardless of relentless incitement. I want this blawg to attract commentaries like the last one and I trust that others will not detract from that happening. The temps are still hot but nothing like some of the discussions here can be at times. Thank you.

  6. FF LEO,

    Thank you for clarifying this. I got distracted and did not google it, yet. Still hot out in AZ. You think some ATF are bad, think of the complicity of the Prosecutors. That is even more despicable to knowingly prosecute bad cases because someone in the Agency has an in with your boss. You are told what to do, as we know the Prosecutors serve at will. ATF at least has civil service protection if their job goes sour.

  7. Mr. Wisner,

    Thank you for your commentary.

    I would have missed the related quiz question regarding the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli…
    _______________________________

    {Quote from wiki:

    “The first treaty is cited as historical evidence in the modern day controversy over whether there was religious intent by the founders of the United States government. Article 11 of the first treaty has been interpreted as an official denial of a Christian basis for the U.S. government.”

    End Quote}
    _______________________________

  8. Alec,

    You know they say that you find Jesus in Jail and the Pope in Prison.

  9. BTW, why hasn’t any Board of Education, or the Federal Dept. of Education, moved to make the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli mandatory reading material in all levels of education. This might help weed out the problem at its roots.

  10. This illustrates the most frightening aspect of the religious right. These people deem themselves above secular law. They truly believe that a theocracy must be imposed in this nation and their religious belief imposed upon all.

    Since religion, by its nature, commonly possesses “revealed truth,” these people are, at the very least, honest in their belief system. Historically, any religious sect able to exert complete power has been more than willing to impose its own theocracy and, at the very least, persecute those who did not accept and follow their “revealed truth.” At various times, Catholics, Muslims and various Protestant sects have shown this capability. Given the state of affairs in Israel, I think that the ultra-Orthodox would love to do the same.

    The point is, we cannot allow sectarianism to drive even deeper rifts into our national polity. It is very important that those who deliberately disobey judicial edicts be swiftly brought to justice, and, if found guilty, immediately punished.

    I know two things with some certainty. First, the true believers will continue to see these men as martyrs (jailed for praying) regardless of the facts. Second, while true believers are unlikely to change their world view, the reality that jail is inevitable might give some of them pause before clearly breaking the law.

  11. good.
    its about time that schools get that they can’t use their positions to advocate for christian prayer.
    these guys will have plenty of time to organize prayer groups in prison.
    in fact I think jesus will love them even more if they just settle down and become martyrs.
    there is a simple remedy for parents who think that their children need to organized christian prayer in school: parochial schools.
    if they can’t afford this there is another remedy: home schooling.
    if they can’t manage this there is another remedy: have them pray extra hard before and after school. at home. or in church. let them pray for the rest of us, the godless heathens who deny their right to mold us into christians just like them.
    and then lets let the teachers go back to teaching evolution and sex ed and passing out condoms.

  12. One of the best commentaries on public vs. private prayer is by Roger Ebert.
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3944/is_200304/ai_n9217258/

    or, if you prefer the short version:

    5″And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
    Matthew 6:5-6 (New International Version)

  13. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. These officials blatantly disobeyed a court order and they are now paying the price for it. I have no problem with the jail time. It will give them time to convert some of their neighbors!

  14. I’d be a little concerned about the objectivity and accuracy of an article from the Moonie Times.

  15. Necessity defense…pray in school or be eternally damned to drive a Studebaker Lark into a lake of hell fire…

  16. You know that they its easier to close a door on a Yugo than a Seven Day Adventist. With that said, if you have never experienced a Southern Baptist Zealot trying to convert you to its way of thinking read the above.

    In the Article is states: “Mr. Staver said the district also agreed to forbid senior class President Mary Allen from speaking at the school’s May 30 graduation ceremony on the chance that the young woman, a known Christian, might say something religious.

    “She was the first student body president in 33 years not allowed to speak,” he said.

    This is a little over board. Why was she not allowed to speak with the explicit agreement not to violate the order. Do they not still have to have the substance approved by the sponsoring teacher?

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