Prayer at a Preschool Graduation

During a Texas public preschool’s “graduation” ceremony on May 31st, one teacher urged a student to say “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Amber Barnhill was a parent at that ceremony and she was surprised by what she heard. She didn’t want to make a big deal out of it — it was probably just an innocent mistake, right? So she decided to just chat with the teacher and let her know what the issue was:

[The teacher] replied “I’m sorry, but I cannot apologize for that”. She kept reiterating this line through the whole of our conversation. She also said “no one else had a problem with it” though clearly she did not ask everyone involved and “no one has ever said a word to me before about this”. I inserted the word “religion” to which she immediately cut me off with “oh it’s not a religion, it’s a way of life. It’s who I am” and elaborated on this.

The conversation just got more frustrating from there. In short, Amber was the voice of reason. The teacher was the voice of denial.

And then, the next day, the teacher sent the students home with a flyer for a local church.

That’s when the Freedom From Religion Foundation got involved. They sent a letter to the Beaumont Independent School District letting them know of the problem — and just like that, the issue appears to have been solved:

Amber Barnhill

12News spoke with the teacher involved. The teacher admits to making a small prayer for the student to say but says she was just trying to give her students a mock graduation.

“I didn’t intend to impose, I just tried to mock a graduation. I did apologize to the lady who was the only one I found who was offended,” She told 12News.

The district say it will respond to the case following a thorough investigation. The teacher tells 12News she will not include prayers in any future programs.

Problem solved.

Two quick lessons from all this: The teacher’s good intentions are no excuse for circumventing the law. Also, it makes no difference if one parent complains or 100 parents complain; if you’re doing something illegal, then it needs to stop.

Kudos to Amber for saying something about this instead of just letting it go.

By the way: Amber is a Christian.

Incidentally, this is the same school district where a principal shut down a cosmetology class last fall because one of the students “looked” gay. It’s also just a short drive away from the Kountze Independent School District, home of the Bible-banner cheerleaders.

(Thanks to Richard for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.