A Colorado public high school is under heavy criticism after banning Christian students from engaging in any form of religious activities during free time, alleging that it violates the U.S. constitution, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Chase Windeback, a senior at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, was called in to the assistant principal’s office on September 29, but not for being late or causing a disturbance in class. He was called in for praying and singing “Amazing Grace” with his classmates in their weekly informal religious fellowship gatherings.
“He was told that he could no longer pray with his fellow students during free time because of the separation of church and state,” Jeremy Tedesco, Windeback’s attorney, told Fox News. “He was told that he could pray before the school day begins or after the school day ends but he could not do it during the school day.”
Tedesco specializes in religious freedom cases with the Alliance Defending Freedom and was particularly bothered with the school’s decision to ban Windeback’s religious activities, especially given the nature of the fellowship’s meetings.
“Public schools should encourage the free exchange of ideas,” Tedesco told Fox News. “Instead, this school implemented an ill-conceived ban that singles out religious speech for censorship during free time.”
Assistant principal James Lucas and Principal Kolette Back stuck to their guns. The lawsuit states: "Defendants Back and Lucas stated that because of the separation of church and state and because they regarded the Seminar period as instructional time, they were banning students’ discussion of issues of the day from a religious perspective during the open time of Seminar period.”
During this time, Windeback and his Christian friends are allowed to meet so long as they do not discuss anything religious or pray.
While the role of religion in the public school system has been a topic of debate for quite some time now, Tedesco made it clear where he stands on the issue. “Students have the right to pray during the school day,” Tedesco continued. “... and they certainly have the right to use free time to engage in religious expression -- like prayer.”