A Wyoming school that told students they couldn’t pray in the cafeteria has lifted the ban after a Christian legal group threatened legal action on constitutional grounds.
A small group of students at Platte County School District #1 created a prayer circle in the cafeteria of Glendo High School to pray for their meal on October 15. The students prayed audibly, and it was not part of a regularly scheduled group. Afterward, the students say Principal Stanetta Twiford accosted one of the students and accused the student of forcing their religion on other students.
The principal allegedly said students needed permission to pray and then must go in the hallway or gymnasium if they wanted to talk to God. That way, other students wouldn’t see the prayer. The school argued the students were a captive audience being forced to witness the prayer. The father of two of the students appealed to the principal, who stood firm on the rule.
The parents of two of the students then reached out to the Alliance Defending Freedom, A Christian legal group, which now represents the students. ADF sent a letter to the district Dec. 4, threatening to take legal action if the district continued to ban the students from praying.
“School cafeterias are not religion-free zones, and they certainly do not involve captive audiences,” ADF said in a letter letter to the district. “Students in the cafeteria are not captive audiences because they can leave at any time or turn away from the quiet prayer in the corner…”
The school’s superintendent has since changed the school’s tone on the issue. The district sent a letter to ADF Thursday admitting their error and notifying the group that the students could resume praying.
“I feel our staff and district have a better understanding of students’ rights regarding prayer and how to handle future incidents and consider this incident closed,” the school said in a letter responding to ADF.
For now, it appears the students can pray in peace.
“No student should be prevented from engaging in private prayer alone or quietly with other students on campus,” ADF Legal Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said in a statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in on this specifically. The First Amendment protects the right to pray in a non-disruptive manner not just in private but in public, too. The district has done the right thing in lifting its unconstitutional ban.”
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