Critic Says Illegal Prayer is 'Rampant' in Houston Schools | Education
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A religious skeptics' group argues that prayers and other illegal religious observances are widespread in Houston County's public schools.
Federal courts have ruled that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violates the First Amendment.
They say, in the past month, eight Houston County families came forward, each one describing "multiple violations."
His letter said they would not identify those families, due to the "virulent and hostile response" to their first letter."
In his letter to Jerles, the group's attorney, Andrew Seidel, writes, "It is clear that there is a systemic lack of adherence to and respect for the First Amendment in Houston County Schools."
Among the alleged violations, his letter describes
• Prayers at other school events, such as assemblies, ceremonies, and school council meetings.
• Administrators encouraging teachers to pray.
• A Facebook post, in which a teacher wrote, "We (the teachers) did hold hands and have a prayer around the kids. It was lovely."
• School alma mater songs endorsing religious belief.
• The school's "Summer Reading Program" that recommend Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series. Seidel's letter says those books have been accused of being anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic.
• Religious imagery, such as Bible quotes, on school walls and websites.
• Schools partnering with churches in "close and troubling relationships."
• Mandating attendance at religious ceremonies, such as a baccalaureate service held at a Baptist church.
In June, Hines released a statement saying that Houston County school intend to follow the law.
Seidel's latest letter asks what the school district is doing to ensure that the law is being followed. He is requesting "extensive corrective measures, including training of all HCSD employees and administrators" in the First Amendment.
On Friday, school spokeswoman Beth McLaughlin said Hines would have no further comment. Jerles also could not be reached for comment.
But earlier this week, Hines told 13WMAZ's Lorra Lynch Jones that they've received hundreds of letters in support.