A Christian woman who was banned from leading prayers and giving sermons on the front steps of a New Hampshire high school has found a way around the school’s ban on prayer. She now does it silently.
Lizarda Urena signs in as a visitor each morning at Concord High School and then prays silently for 10 to 15 minutes on the school’s steps.
Urena began openly praying and reading bible verses on the steps of the high school in February, after bullets were found in one of the high school’s bathrooms. Two of her children attend the school and she said she became concerned about the safety of the students.
The atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) complained to the district about Urena’s activities. “We sent an open records request to the school district, asking them for copies of any meeting minutes or any sort of documents which gave this woman permission to pray on school property,” said FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert.
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Students had to pass Urena on their way to class and had no choice but to hear her prayers.
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union also agreed that Urena should not be able to pray aloud at the school.
During the summer, Superintendent Christine Rath said Urena would be banned. Then a conservative group, The Alliance for Defending Freedom, came to her aid.
“Students and community members that are allowed to come on campus and participate in a neutral thing are allowed to express religious viewpoints,” said the group’s general counsel Matthew Sharp. “The students know it’s the mother and her own speech — something that the First Amendment protects — and that it is not the school mandating this woman to do it.”
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“I’m so happy that I’m back, and I feel like I’m welcomed by the school,” Urena told the Concord Monitor Tuesday.
Last week Rath told a school board meeting Urena’s activity walks a fine line between promoting a specific religion and free speech.
“It’s that fine line between what is private and what is public,” Rath said.
Urena’s activities are monitored by school officials on a daily basis.
“We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,” Rath added.