AHA Files Suit Over Prayer at Missouri School

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center has filed a federal lawsuit against the public schools in Fayette, Missouri, where teachers hold weekly prayer sessions with students in classrooms during the school day. According to the press release sent out by the group:

Activities outlined in the lawsuit include weekly Christian “devotional” prayer sessions led by a teacher in her classroom during school hours, students being told by the teacher that God will punish them if they are not good, exclusive morning announcements by the principal over the school public address system promoting the prayer sessions, the prominent display of the book “God’s Game Plan” in Pope’s classroom during class time, and using school-owned equipment and materials to print fliers for the prayer sessions.

“It is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause when public school officials encourage their students to pray or participate in prayer activities with them,” said Monica Miller of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “It is unfortunate that we have reached a point where court action is necessary to address a problem that the school could have resolved voluntarily on its own.”

According to the complaint, teacher Gwen Pope held these prayer sessions in her classroom every Friday morning, with her husband, a minister, coming in to lead the students in prayer. The school would announce the prayer sessions over the PA system before they started (but not for other events). The suit also alleges that Pope has “told her students during her math class that God will punish them if they are not good.”

You can read the full complaint here.

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  • MikeMa

    Once again, religious, specifically christian, arrogance will cost the district money that could be used to educate. There must be enough of these cases to compile an ‘opportunities lost’ list.

    Cost of litigation, Date of judgement, Programs dropped or curtailed as a result

    I’m guessing music, art, library, advanced science and field trip programs would all be on that list. Sports, not so much. American values for sure.

  • lordshipmayhem

    These same people who think it’s peachy-keen to have Xian prayer in schools would of course go ballistic if a teacher tried to have a Muslim or Jewish prayer service in that same school – even though they all bow down to the same invisible friend. And the reaction over having a Buddhist or Sikh or Shinto prayer would be even more entertaining.

  • Abby Normal

    The suit also alleges that Pope has “told her students during her math class that God will punish them if they are not good.”

    I once had a teacher tell my class the same when I was in school. My reply, while doing my best Meg Ryan impersonation, “Promise? Oh yea, Sky Daddy, punish me! Spank me Jesus, spank me!!” I stared her right in the eye, daring her to call me out. She went from pink, to crimson, to purple while the class looked on, some shocked, others tittering behind their hand.

    She took a deep breath and I got the feeling she was counting in her head. “Someday that mouth is going to get you in more trouble than you can handle,” she eventually replied before getting on with the lesson. The accuracy of her prediction aside, I don’t recall her bringing up God in class again.

  • Artor

    Abby, are you married? I think I’m in love.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Once again, religious, specifically christian, arrogance will cost the district money that could be used to educate.

    So at least something good will come of it.

  • flatlander100

    I gather neither the teacher nor the principal involved work at the school anymore. Would that make the matter moot?

  • MikeMa


    Only if they were out of public education entirely. If they pulled a catholic church and just moved them to some other school with changing their illegal practices, no good.

  • MikeMa

    with should be without

  • John Hinkle

    …God will punish them if they are not good.

    God will punish you if you are good, bad, or indifferent. He’s a lousy bowler rolling natural disasters, and people are the pins.

  • Abby Normal

    Artor, glad you approve. My parents were less thrilled with my insubordinate nature. By my senior year of high school they were completely fed up with my antics. While I was at school they fulfilled the fantasy of many parents before them and moved away without telling me. I came home from school and the house was completely empty. Thus began my stint as a homeless emancipated minor. That’s probably more trouble than my teacher imagined but, as it turns out, was not more than I could handle.

    Now if only I could figure out how I grew up to be such an average, boring adult.

  • Synfandel

    Abby, I’m glad you turned out fine, but Wow! That must have been incredibly traumatic for you. What a nasty way to reject a child. My deepest sympathies.

  • Abby Normal

    Thanks Synfandel. Though I regretted posting it as soon as I hit the button. This week is the anniversary of the event. So it’s been on my mind. But it’s not exactly germane to the topic at hand.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    @12 … But it was a totally awesome response.

  • https://www.facebook.com/danny.lampley Danny Lampley

    @ Artor – you didn’t say “Dibs,” so DIBS!

  • dingojack

    Teacher: “God will punish you if you’re bad”

    Me: “Oh yes? Well don’t get so distressed,.Did I happen to mention I’m impressed?” *



    * Kiss Off. Violent Femmes.