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Teacher prays before school begins, all hell breaks loose

A school district in Texas is being taken to court because of its decision to ban an employee from praying.

It is the American Center for Law and Justice that has gone to federal court in Houston on behalf of Staci Barber, an employee of the Katy Independent School District.

Defendants are the district and Bryan Rounds, principal of Cardiff junior high.

The federal court filing explains that the district “violated, and continues to violate, her rights to religious expression by prohibiting her from praying when students might be present, even if that prayer occurs off the clock.”

The ACLJ explained this case involves a teacher who wanted to engage in prayer outside the school building before the school day begins.

“Every year millions of people gather at school flag poles to pray before the school day begins. The ACLJ is very proud to stand in support of See You At The Pole, a prayer rally for students and participating adults to lift up their schools in prayer. Our client has prayed at the pole every year on behalf of her students,” the legal team explained.

“This year she had gathered with two friends and fellow teachers to pray at the school flagpole. The school principal called these teachers into his office. He told them that they could not pray at the pole or in the presence of students because if they did so, students may see and join in. He told them that it was against the law for them to pray publicly where students could see them and then pointed them to a school policy that prohibited teachers from praying in the presence of students.”

However, the ACLJ explained the facts, that the Constitution “protects the rights of religious employees to pray, even publicly; they do not somehow lose their constitutional rights just by being government employees.

“A school can prevent employees from getting distracted when they are supposed to be acting according to their official duties. But what it cannot do is prevent school employees from expressing their religious faith at all,” the team said.

The school was sent a demand letter giving instructions to stop infringing Barber’s First Amendment rights, and responded, but then abruptly doubled down on its position.

It continues to insist that teachers or other employees can pray or read religious materials “during a time when students are not present.”

The ACLJ said, “This new language is still blatantly unconstitutional. Particularly, the principal told our client that he considered Pray at the Pole to be a ‘student group,’ and so under this new language, she is still barred from praying before the school day begins.”

The action seeks judicial determinations and injunctions that would bring the district’s policy into alignment with the Constitution.

It also charges the principal retaliated against the teacher, over absences caused by a health issue, and summoned her to a meeting where he said he “might have to say, look, I really need somebody else that can be here.”

Originally published by WND

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