FFRF Files Suit Over Egregious Church/State Violation

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the Emanuel County School System in Swainsboro, Georgia. If the allegations in the press release they sent out are even remotely true, this is one of the most blatant and egregious violations of the First Amendment I’ve ever seen.

Defendants include Superintendent Kevin Judy, Swainsboro Primary School Principal Valorie Watkins, Swainsboro Primary School teacher Kaytrene Bright and Swainsboro primary school teacher Cel Thompson. Anonymous co-plaintiffs are Jane and John Doe, and their young children, Jesse and Jamie Doe.

“Encouraging the Doe children to pray, or isolating and punishing the Doe children for electing not to pray, violates the deeply and sincerely held moral convictions of the Doe children and therefore their First Amendment rights,” reads FFRF’s legal complaint.

Before lunch, Jamie’s teacher, Cel Thompson, asked students to bow heads, fold hands and pray, leading the class in a call and response prayer: “God our Father, we give thanks, for our many blessings. Amen.”

In Jesse’s first-grade class, Kaytrene Bright led students in this daily prayer: “God is great. Let us thank you for our food. Thank you for our daily prayer. Thank you. Amen.”

When the parents first learned of the prayer practice in August 2014, they immediately contacted Principal Valorie Watkins to object. The teachers responded by telling the Doe children to leave their classrooms and sit in the hallway while the rest of their classes prayed. According to Jesse, the teacher “used her mean voice” when instructing Jesse to wait in the hallway.

After being told to go to the hallway during prayers, Jamie was teased by a fellow student, who thought Jamie was being punished for not praying. After this incident, Jamie began to regularly complain about feeling uncomfortable in class, and Jamie’s parents eventually had to pull their child out of school.

Jesse was pressured all semester long to pray. Bright even held Jesse back from recess to explain her personal Christian beliefs at length, and said that Jesse’s mother was a bad person for not believing in God. At the end of the semester, Jesse began to join in the classroom prayers because of Bright’s and other employees’ continued coercion.

This goes well beyond mere ignorance of the law. If these allegations are true, there needs to be a lot more than an injunction from a court and an agreement to change the practice. People need to be fired over this, both the teachers and the administrators who made the situation worse rather than complying with the law.

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  • davefitz

    “Thank you for our daily prayer”

    You have to thank god for allowing you to pray to him now? What an asshole.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Anonymous co-plaintiffs are Jane and John Doe, and their young children, Jesse and Jamie Doe.

    If they’re supposed to be anonymous then why did they print their names?

  • whheydt

    It’s going to be a mess. While the case is proceeding. the Xians are going to be playing the martyr. After the plaintiffs win, the Xians will be all butt-hurt about being “persecuted” and complaining about “activist” judges. The “Christian nation” claims will be out in force.

    The whole thing is going to be very, very ugly. The adult plaintiffs are probably going to have to move and the defendants will probably not learn anything.

    I hope the plaintiffs hang in there.

  • Alverant

    @3 I hope the plaintiffs survive. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were attacked.

  • wreck

    I don’t remember the nuns back in catholic grammar school being this bad. Sure, one old bitch threatened us with eternal damnation if we didn’t sign up to be altar boys, but I never missed a recess to be harangued about Jeebus.

  • dingojack

    “God is great. Let us thank you for our food. Thank you for our daily prayer. Thank you. Amen.”

    Clearly one needs to render into a foreign language:

    “الله أكبر. دعونا نشكر لكم لغذائنا. شكرا لصلاتنا اليومية. شكرا. آمين “.

    Somehow I doubt you’d be allowed to get past much more than ‘Allah Akbar -‘ before the freak-out would begin.


  • John Pieret

    I looked for news report that might reveal what the school’s defense might be but couldn’t find any. I guess the story is too new. Whatcha wanna bet some numbnutz says FFRF is trying to infringe on the teacher’s freedom of speech?

    Anyway, some poor lawyer for the school district is going to have agita real soon.

  • footface

    “Thank you for our daily prayer”? Is this really what the Christians are thanking god for nowadays?

  • eric

    I don’t remember the nuns back in catholic grammar school being this bad.

    I would like to think that, with almost 350 million people, the same normal distribution in human behavior we’ve always had has just natually produced longer tails of extreme behavior. But the other possibility is that yeah, the country really is getting worse.

  • teawithbertrand

    @1 and 8

    I was struck by that as well. “Thank you for letting me thank you.” The amount of obsequious ass kissing required by their god knows no limits.

  • abb3w

    Emanuel county? Talk about bad harbingers.

    Contrariwise, my quick check of the High School science department doesn’t turn up anything alarming in the Biology materials from the Science teachers.

  • Michael Heath

    Here’s an article from the local newspaper where you don’t need to register to post a comment: http://emanuelcountylive.com/2015/02/emanuel-county-schools-vs-ffrf-whats-opinion/ I wrote a post using the name, “Michael”; my post’s waiting approval.

    I didn’t use any profanity nor did I personally insult anyone. So hopefully that paper’s open to some free speech.

  • Michael Heath

    Here’s what I posted at the above-linked local newspaper:

    We lay claim to being a free country; a lot of us work hard to insure we optimally adhere to that standard. When it comes to religion, we not only did not delegate authority to the government to privilege particular religious groups as demonstrated here, we also expressly prohibit them from doing so. That’s in order to better protect freedom of assembly, speech, and conscience of individuals along with the religious freedom rights of individuals.

    Here we have the government using un-delegated powers to treat some children as something less than other citizens, a major infringement on their individual rights while also abusing those individuals’ equal protection rights.

    These teachers need to be fired if these charges are true. This isn’t merely a demonstration of ignorance, which itself should be a fire-able offense given these are teachers that should be literate on the U.S. Constitution, it’s also a major failure in integrity to treat come [sic] students as less than the others.

    The entire school administration appears to require remedial lessons on the concept of limited government, how the U.S. Constitution supports that concept, and their obligation as the government to not only stop abusing others’ rights, but also protect those rights.

  • John Pieret

    Michael Heath’s letter was “printed” but it is one of only two and the other is favorable to the FFRF suit. The thundering hordes haven’t found the story yet or are strangely indifferent.

  • anubisprime

    footface @ 8

    “Thank you for our daily prayer”? Is this really what the Christians are thanking god for nowadays?

    Well to be honest if not brutally accurate here…they have fuck all else!

  • dingojack

    I’m sure this the kind prayer they really had in mind!


  • U Frood

    “Thank you for our daily prayer” just makes me think of “Thank you, sir! May I have another?”

  • wpjoe

    That’s what elementary school in GA was like when I attended in the 1970s. We had a prayer before lunch, and I distinctly remember a lesson in 6th grade science class on the characteristics of the moon that was accompanied by a reading from the bible. I would have thought GA schools had progressed since then.