The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is investigating a public high school after a student led 50 classmates and a coach in a prayer that lasted two and a half hours.
The prayer took place in a coach’s office at Lumpkin County High School and was led by a student member of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. It began at 7:30 a.m. and lasted until 10 a.m., said Lumpkin County Schools Superintendent Dewey Moye.
"It was a student-led initiative. The student showed up at the coach's office and the coach did pray with them and it went into the school day, over into the first period of the day," Moye said.
Moye claims the students were within their rights. "I believe it's a Constitutional right to pray, yes I do. I believe they can do so at their desk, as long as they do not disrupt the school day," he said.
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A parent told My Fox Atlanta she didn’t like the prayer session. “School has to be neutral,” said Sayuri Adams.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” a male student told My Fox Atlanta. “If the kids are feeling they need to talk to the Lord and they want to pray with their friends, I think they should be able to.”
While Moye said there would no longer be prayer held during school hours, he added that the coach and students would not be disciplined.
People tweeting about the extended prayer seemed to think students in the group were being converted or “saved”: "Props to Lumpkin High School, 15 people got saved during school."; "Seeing souls saved is the greatest feeling ever."
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The ACLU is investigating whether the school violated the U.S. Constitution. Any attempts to convert or recruit students to Christianity during school would be in violation of the same laws as someone attempting to recruit students to Islam or any other religion. No local ordinance or state law supersedes the Constitutional separation of church and state.
A Florida case from 2011, two unidentified students versus the School Board of Santa Rosa County, ruled that "School officials shall not participate in any way in a prayer with students" during school and “officials shall not orally express personal religious beliefs to students" during school.
"We had met with the coach this morning," Moye said, "and told him ... that when a student comes to see him and wants to pray, or seek his guidance, they can do so before school or after school."