August 7, 2006

Prayer in School: In-Service Training in Mississippi

I received the following comment from a reader in another post, Gisan, and thought it deserved greater attention:

This is off topic a bit, but I would like some feedback on this.

I work in a public school district in Mississippi, and we started the school year today with our opening session. First thing on the agenda? Prayer.

Yeah, you heard that right: prayer.

One of the elementary school teachers got up and went into this very loud (and progressively louder and more frantic...oh we went so nuts on it) prayer with "God" almost literally being every other word. The first God three quarters God of the God entire God prayer went God alot like God this God. I am not exaggerating. I really am not. The last quarter of the prayer was God and Jesus being tossed in almost every other word. The whole prayer was asking God for excellence in education.

I must say that I am MORTALLY offended. Like "about to call the ACLU" offended. I do not go to ANY church, if possible, because of stuff like this, but now it is standard operating procedures on the first day of staff in-service!

Thoughts? Suggestions?

This is highly inappropriate but unfortunately common here in Mississippi. My first thought is that you would probably have more luck by contacting the official(s) in charge (e.g., training organizer, school principal, superintendent, etc.) before going to the ACLU. Ideally, this would be a face-to-face contact followed by a letter. Of course, I understand that you may not want to have your identity attached to the complaint. An anonymous letter would be better than nothing, but if I went this route, I'd send the letter to several officials at different levels of administration.

Involving the ACLU makes sense, but the complaint would be stronger if it was not anonymous and if it followed a failure to change policy by the school officials. In your initial complaint process, I'd mention that you are considering filing a complaint with the ACLU. This way, if an ACLU complaint is necessary, you can state that you first tried to resolve the matter with local officials and they refused to budge.

Another action to consider would involve writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. This might inspire fellow freethinkers in the area to join you in contacting the school. Yet another option would be to file a complaint with the state department of education.

Readers, if you have additional suggestions for Gisan, please share them.

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