Richmond CIty Council Members Sponsor Prayer Tour Through the Public Schools

Michelle Mosby is a first-time councilwoman for Richmond, Virginia who works alongside colleague Cynthia Newbille. Both councilwomen want to stop the rampant violence in our public schools and they’ve figured out the perfect way to do it: Through prayer.

City Council members Michelle Mosby (left) and Cynthia Newbille

Mosby says it was a divine inspiration that gave her the idea to organize a community hour of prayer this Saturday at all 49 Richmond public school buildings.

Flyers distributed for the event list Newbille and Mosby as council members and sponsors of the community prayer. Mosby’s staff person employed by the city is listed as the point of contact, and even though the event is not put on by the city, the few hundred fliers were printed in city council offices by city staffers.

“I guess you’re dealing with an out of the box thinker,” said Mosby when asked about the decision to print the flyers at city hall.

That’s one way to deflect Constitutional concerns: Just praise yourself for having a mind so brilliant, it can’t understand how the law works.

The flyer in question leaves no doubt about the Christian nature of the event. It quotes James 5:16, shows that Mosby and Newbille are sponsors of the event in their capacities as government representatives, and — perhaps most egregiously — says that “the safety, wellbeing and protection of our children from crime is at stake,” as if Christian prayers are the only way to protect the kids.

Thankfully, the ACLU is onto them:

“The government is not in a position legally to sponsor prayer,” said Claire Gastanaga, of the Richmond ACLU.

Mosby, meanwhile, thinks she’s in the clear because the school district isn’t supporting this and the prayer event is taking place on a Saturday:

“I don’t feel like we are breaking the law,” said Mosby. “We are outside of the schools.”

Mosby says she has clearance from school officials.

“I’ve had meetings with the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools,” said Mosby. “Richmond Public Schools is not a sponsor for this event, however we have the permit to be at these events.”

The schools aren’t the issue here. If Mosby and Newbille want to do this on their own time, without using their elected titles to promote the event, this wouldn’t be a problem, but they’re crossing the line when they put their names on the flyer and use government employees and office equipment to let people know about how Jesus is going to save the schools.

If this is the best Richmond has to offer, those students are screwed. They deserve better leadership. Good intentions don’t matter; practical solutions do, and this isn’t one of them.

I’m hoping the ACLU monitors this situation closely. Mosby and Newbille have little regard for the law because they’re putting their faith above it. If they weren’t Christians, this would have been stopped a long time ago. They shouldn’t be able to get away with it now.

(Thanks to Richard for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Frazzah

    Divine inspiration gave her the idea to organize something unconstitutional that also happens to cater to the religious right.

    Didn’t see that one coming.

  • icecreamassassin

    Prayer? Why didn’t anyone *else* in history ever think of that! Finally – a solution to SO MANY of society’s problems presents itself! Now we can finally end hunger, crime, murder, rape, war, and disasters. To think of all that time we’ve wasted over the years trying to identify root-causes and actionable solutions…

    • Highlander

      Wow, we could defund the military, the Justice Dept., Homeland Sec., and Health and human services. In one fell swoop we could cut the budget in half! Why didn’t anyone think of this before? It’s almost like no one thought it would actually work! Honestly, why do we even need schools? We could just pray the knowledge into children’s heads! Brilliant! We could pray for concrete, asphalt and metal to fall from the sky and form roads, bridges and railways, why spend the money on infrastructure? Just let God do it! Forget planting and harvesting crops, pray for mana from heaven! What could be more biblical?
      End of snark

    • Ron

      Well, duh!? Don’t ya remember how well Rick Perry’s big prayer-a-palooza for rain in Texas worked out last year? This is a no-brainer — literally.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “I guess you’re dealing with an out of the box thinker,”

    More like out of bounds rather than out of the box, and “thinker” is a questionable term in this case. It’s astonishing how many elected public officials at every level are so ignorant about the basic principles of the Constitution. When caught, they don’t see the principle they’re violating, they just try to legal-weasel their way around the wording.

    I’m hoping the ACLU monitors this situation closely.

    Screw “monitoring.” File a lawsuit now. We’ve seen enough.

    • eric

      My cat also occasionally produces an “out of the box” idea. Sometimes, staying in the box is a good thing.

      • Oranje

        *applause*

    • The Other Weirdo

      I am not even sure this is a problem with the Constitution. This is a problem of people with only a single idea in their head, and they can’t see–and don’t even want to–beyond it.

      • Eve

        That’s true, but I can bet that if you go around the churches of the U.S., the vast majority of people will tell you that you have the freedom to worship Jesus anyway you wish, just like the Constitution says, and they’ll believe it with every bit they’ve got.

        • The Other Weirdo

          Like I said, just the one idea.

    • beatonfam

      I took “monitoring the situation” as “we haven’t actually filed the paperwork yet, but don’t worry we’re working on it.”

    • Trickster Goddess

      Because using your employer’s equipment, and stealing supplies and resources for your personal project is such a radical new idea that no one ever thought of doing it before.

      Brilliant!

  • Mitch

    Because prayer works so well at preventing violence. Getting topical with it, I bet there were plenty of people praying during and after the Navy Yard incident a couple of weeks ago. Now we have shots fired by the Capitol. I think that effectively kills the claims for the “power of prayer.”

    • Matt D

      I wish it were that easy, but it’s not like the proof prayer doesn’t work has been absent until this century. Apologists simply refuse to connect the dots, and find it easier to throw away puzzles that lead them away from their fantasies.

      • Mitch

        Very true.

  • baal

    I wonder if city funds went to the printing.

    • tubi11

      She’s proud of the fact that they were printed at city offices. That was her brilliant masterstroke.

      But unless she brought her own reams of paper and some toner cartridges from home, and the staffers did it off the clock, and she reimbursed the city for the cost of electricity to run the printers, then yes, city funds went into the printing.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      She offered to pay the city back for the printing costs. Which indicates that she’s totally missing the point. This isn’t about a few dollars of tax payer money. This is about her (ab)using her position as a member of the government to push a specific religion.

      • baal

        I agree but the use of official funds (in any amount) is a nice unambiguous piece of evidence for an establishment law case.

      • Mario Strada

        No, she has offered to replace the paper. That’s full color digital printing. The ink is much more expensive than the paper. She is not that stupid. She is a Out of the box thinker. More like “out of my wallet”.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I’m pretty sure she could find local companies more than happy to jump on that bandwagon. The danger of focusing on the dollars and cents is that they think as long as they get a rich donor to pay for it, they can do WTF they want.

          There are plenty of people in this country who would LOVE to donate to a fund to Jesufy our schools.

          Edit: but good point on keeping it technically accurate. As one who snipes about accuracy, I shouldn’t dismiss your correction.

  • Donatello

    I don’t think this will work, my prayers for non-stupid politicians haven’t been answered yet either.

    • Fentwin

      A really scary thing is; what if your prayers have been answered and this is the best we can get?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Why don’t they just start sacrificing virgins to the volcano? It’s the same effect on real-world problems.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    What is the link between the problem addressed by prayer and the location of the prayer meant to address it? Can’t the power of prayer reach from the churches and homes of religious people to the location of the problem? Prayer has limited range? No, but evangelism does. Eureka!

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      I want to add that I think the community should immediately place blame for past violence squarely on the local Christians. Why weren’t they praying to stop it already? And if the violence continues, instead of doubting their prayers, I suggest we play their game and challenge their faith and worth as Christians.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Jesus did say that if with enough faith they could move mountains. Hell, I don’t even want that. Stop just one bit of violence.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          Tectonic plates and weather have more faith than Christians.

        • Mario Strada

          I’d be happy if it moved my garbage to the curb every Thursday.

  • Fentwin

    These people who suffer from a Cruci-fixation are nothing more than exhibitionist. As much as the weirdo in the park wearing a trench-coat and nothing else.

    Welcome to the world of Christ-inanity.

  • Randy Meyer

    But the Christian way is the better way! Don’t you know that by now?

  • MisterTwo

    Hey, let’em do it! Then when violence increases instead of decreasing, they’ll all realize that prayer is useless. Or, no, that’s not what’ll happen. They’ll just think they need to pray even more. Never mind.

    • The Other Weirdo

      No they won’t. They’ll say God’s will, and therefore we don’t have to do anything. Persecution, natch.

    • thepatsy

      They always have an answer. If you do not get results, then you did not pray hard enough, or you do not have enough faith in God or the devil did it. You have to remember. These people worship a wimpy God. They have to shout their beliefs from the rooftops since their God does not hear silent prayer. They have to let everyone know how very righteous they are. I would like it better if they would just carve a giant “C” on their foreheads and they could impress us all, all of the time.

  • Oranje

    “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

    I’m shakingly angry at this. ITALICS OR QUOTES! NOT F’ING BOTH!

    AND PREFERABLY ITALICS!

    *goes and takes meds*

  • GeniusPhx

    in tennessee 7 christians were killed when their bus hit something yesterday. they were on their way back from a christian concert. how f__cking christian do you have to be for god to save your life. maybe these students are even more xn then the bus w kids and god will save them for once. not likely.

  • God’s Starship

    How is using government employees and equipment to promote your religion “thinking outside of the box”? It’s the same hairbrained scheme written about here every week! There isn’t a single new idea in this story! Every one of these unoriginal people think they’ve cracked one of life’s greatest mysteries!

  • Alan E.

    Being from Richmond, it’s going to take a lot more than prayer to fix some of those schools. My nextdoor neighbor was a football coach at Huguenot High, and he told my parents to do anything to not go to that school.

    • cathouseumbrella

      Why would your parents go to a high school?

  • anniewhoo

    Since *everyone* is welcome, I do hope someone had time to drop off flyers to the local mosques and synagogues.

  • Rob McClain

    How do you get a populace that believes it can beat 170 million-to-1 odds of winning the lottery to shed belief in prayer? Here’s hoping the ACLU will file something to get these godbotherers off school property.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the best I can hope for is to educate my own children to stay away from religion and superstition; if I happen to convince someone else along the way, then great.

  • Arthur Dent

    We have the FFRF to thank for this. They threatened Cullman County Schools in Alabama with a lawsuit for doing the same thing. When the school district did it anyway, they failed to follow through with the lawsuit. They let them get away with it and gave them nationwide media coverage. You’ll see more and more of these “prayer caravans” pop up all over the country. If you’re going to threaten someone with a lawsuit, you have to follow through with it. If you don’t think you can win a lawsuit, don’t threaten one. All the FFRF has done is encourage more of these activities because people now think they can get away with it.

  • Motivational KOKO

    . . What would have happen if they would have been Muslim . . or . . even worse . . Atheist . . . . .

  • Mick

    They shouldn’t be able to get away with it
    They probably will get away with it. If they get politely asked to stop they will do so – and then seek out loopholes that enable them to continue as before.

    Christians are amazing when it come to loopholes – look at how they interpret the bible.

  • busterggi

    You would think the believer parents would be insulted as this implies they don’t pray enough at home but I’m sure each of them ‘knows’ that its the other students that don’t/

  • Ogre Magi

    Typical dim-witted Southern evangelicals

  • VBB

    No God isn’t going to save “the schools” he is going to save the CHILDREN


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