As the new school year starts, the public schools in Concord, New Hampshire is caving in and allowing a mother who spent months preaching to students on the steps of the high school as students arrived to continue doing so, though it may be that she has to do so silently.
Lizarda Urena has resumed her morning trips to Concord High School to pray for the safety of the students, but she is now praying in silence after school officials told her this summer she would have to stop.
Urena, the mother of two students, returned to campus last week and has been signing in as a visitor and staying for 10 to 15 minutes every morning, said David Bates, a former state representative from Windham who has championed Urena’s right to pray on campus. Last Tuesday, Bates went with Urena to the school, where the two signed in at the main office and then went to the “outdoor classroom” at the school’s front entrance where they prayed in silence. Urena did not return a request for comment yesterday…But school administrators have not made a definitive decision as to whether Urena can or cannot pray on campus. Instead, they will monitor her actions on a daily basis to see if they are in line with the campus visitor and religious policies, Rath said.
“We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,” Rath said.
Praying silently is better than what she was doing last year, which was really preaching rather than praying. But I don’t see why this should have anything to do with religion at all. If she has no business to conduct at the school, if she isn’t there to pick up her children, attend a public event or have a conference with a teacher or administration, she should not be there at all. Schools have never been designated public forums during the instructional day, either traditionally or by designation, so it is a perfectly appropriate time, place and manner restriction to say that you cannot be on school property if you don’t have business to conduct there.