The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation has bullied a New Hampshire school district into forbidding the mother of two high school students from praying on the front steps of her kids’ high school each morning.
The concerned mother, Lizarda Urena, had bestrode the steps of Concord High School for about 15 minutes each morning for two years, reports the Concord Monitor. She wore all white and a necklace with a cross and the word “Jesus.” She said prayers and recited verses from the Bible— Psalm 23, for example (“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…”).
Urena, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, had been conducting this ritual every school day since someone found two bullets in a toilet in one of the bathrooms at the high school.
The high school principal, Gene Connolly, initially gave Urena permission to pray in front of the school
“I asked Mr. Connolly, ‘Please, if you want our school to be protected, we don’t need a police car here, we need the grace of God here every morning,'” she explained to the Monitor.
Connolly noted that the prayers don’t promote or advocate religion.
“She’s not teaching prayer; she’s not out there asking kids to come with (her),” the principal told the Monitor. “She does not promote religion.”
Things changed after Rebecca Markert, a Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney who sends out a number of threatening letters each year, sent a note to the Concord School District.
“We sent an open records request to the school district, asking them for copies of any meeting minutes or any sort of documents which gave this woman permission to pray on school property,” Markert told the New Hampshire Union Leader.
School district officials replied quickly, explaining that there was no document giving Urena permission to pray on campus.
That wasn’t satisfactory for Markert, though.
“Urena positions herself at the top of the school’s stairs and prays out loud,” she said.
At the end of the day, it seems the school district decided that fighting on behalf of a lone parent who wants to pray on school grounds every day isn’t worth anybody’s time.
Superintendent Christine Rath said the district won’t allow Urena’s religious gestures anymore when school resumes this fall.
Kassandra Ardinger, president of the local school board, agreed with Rath’s decision.
“To be fair to all the kids in the school, it is probably best for the principal to say that she shouldn’t be speaking out like this and proselytizing on school grounds,” Ardinger told the Union Leader. “The best mode of action was to tell her to cool it.”
Anytime religion threatens, the atheist organization is there with an angry letter which usually threatens or at least suggests litigation.
When a preschool student in Beaumont, Tex. led a brief prayer ending with the words “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” for example, the FFRF sent a letter of complaint describing the fleeting prayer as “a serious violation of the First Amendment.” One of the parents in attendance at the graduation contacted the atheist outfit. (RELATED: Atheist group, angry mom go ballistic over prayer at pretend preschool commencement)
The FFRF won a battle against a rural Ohio middle school where a portrait of Jesus had hung since the Truman administration. For a few months, school officials had said they would fight an Establishment Clause-based lawsuit but they caved when the school district’s insurer refused to pay to defend the lawsuit. (RELATED: Rural Ohio school district surrenders to ACLU over Jesus portrait)
The FFRF also demanded a school district in New York force a devoutly Christian teacher to eradicate religious material in her classroom, including two quotes by Ronald Reagan. (RELATED: Teacher claims school district forced her to purge classroom of Bible verses, Reagan quote)