In previous “Battleground” articles, I wrote of how the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a 13,000 member, bitter, atheist organization from Wisconsin, had traveled down to Dixie in their quest to remove Christianity from the American landscape.
They’re still here.
Pesky little rodents, aren’t they?
An Alabama school district has been accused of allowing prayers that invoke the name of Jesus during high school football games, according to a complaint filed by a national atheist organization.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the Lauderdale County school district has violated the First Amendment by allowing the prayers at Brooks High School.
School superintendent Bill Valentine confirmed to Fox News that he had received the complaint.
“We’ve referred that complaint to our attorney and we are in the process of reviewing it,” he said.
The complaint was lodged by a single resident who objected to the student-led prayer before high school football games played on school property.
The Times Daily newspaper identified the complainant as Jeremy Green. In an email to the newspaper, Green said he was taking a stand for the so-called “separation of church and state in an effort to protect the constitutional rights of the non-religious.”
“It is not the job of the public school system to endorse religion,” he wrote.
Valentine said that to his knowledge, no one has ever lodged a complaint with the school system about the prayers.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a similar complaint against a school in Arab, Ala. That school decided to end pregame prayers and instead offer a moment of silence.
Valentine said they haven’t made any decision about prayers for Friday night’s football game.
He said the complaint has generated lots of telephone calls – mostly in support of keeping the prayers. He added that most callers have been understanding and “seem to appreciate the quandary we find ourselves in.”
Lauderdale County has about 8,600 students enrolled in public schools and Valentine said the community has a very active religious community.
Among those is David McKelvey, pastor of the nearby First Baptist Church, Killen. He discussed the controversy during his Sunday sermon.
“It’s very sad,” McKelvey told Fox News. “I would think that any other prayer from another religion would not receive this kind of negativity.”
According to David Horowitz’s discoverthenetworks.org:
The Foundation is led by its co-presidents, Dan Barker and his wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor. Barker was a Christian preacher for 19 years before renouncing his faith in 1984. Gaylor, who earned a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980, co-founded FFRC with her mother and the late John Sontarck in 1978. She is author of the books Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So (1981), and Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children (1988). She also edited the 1997 anthology Women Without Superstition: No Gods, No Masters. Today she edits FFRF’s newspaper, Freethought Today, which is published ten times annually.
In April of 2010, Judge Barbara Crabb (a Clinton appointee), responding to a lawsuit filed by the FFRF, ruled that the National Day of Prayer, scheduled for May 6th of that year, was unconstitutional. Crabb wrote in her ruling (excerpt):
It goes beyond mere “acknowledgment” of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience
One might argue that the National Day of Prayer does not violate the establishment clause because it does not endorse any one religion. Unfortunately, that does not cure the problem. Although adherents of many religions “turn to God in prayer,” not all of them do.
Further, the statute seems to contemplate a specifically Christian form of prayer with its reference to “churches” but no other places of worship and the limitation in the 1952 version of the statute that the National Day of Prayer may not be on a Sunday.
This year, on the National Day of Prayer, May 5th, Jay Sekolow, Lead Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, wrote the following:
Just last month [April 2011], a federal appeals court overturned a decision by a federal district court in Wisconsin that declared the National Day of Prayer presidential proclamation unconstitutional. A proclamation like this one issued by President Obama for this year’s event.
As you’ll recall, a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Court’s Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook rejected an argument by FFRF that they could bring a federal lawsuit because the National Day of Prayer made them feel excluded and unwelcome. Echoing an argument made by the ACLJ in our amicus brief, the court concluded: “Hurt feelings differ from legal injury,” and all plaintiffs ultimately allege is “disagreement with the President’s action.” The decision is posted here. Our amicus brief, in which we represented nearly 70 members of Congress, is posted here.
The appeals court correctly concluded that FFRF does not have the right to silence the speech they don’t agree with and that the organization lacked legal standing to challenge the National Day of Prayer.
While this decision represents a victory for this time-honored tradition, FFRF has already said it plans to appeal that decision.
And, as you also know, that FFRF is currently challenging the constitutionality of the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance. FFRF is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case out of New Hampshire and overturn a lower court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Pledge.
So, FFRF wants to get rid of the National Day of Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase ‘under God.’
This is absurd. These challenges not only are legally flawed, but clog our court systems and represent a waste of judicial resources.
We’re standing up for the National Day of Prayer and the Pledge. We will file briefs backing the National Day of Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance as these flawed challenges and appeals continue.
While Jay does, rightfully, toot his own horn a little bit, the important thing is, that Judge’s ruling was overturned.
Average Americans are fighting back. As President Ronald Wilson Reagan said:
Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.
If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.