Religion

Michigan Charter School Accused of Allowing Prayer Services During School Hours

| by Kendal Mitchell

A Michigan-based humanist group made a formal complaint on Wednesday against a charter school that allegedly allowed adults to lead prayer services on campus during school hours.

The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists said parents of students attending Cross Creek Charter Academy in Byron Center, Michigan, told the organization that two adults were leading Christian prayer on campus.

Cross Creek officials said the two adults were not school employees.

Mitch Kahle, a representative for the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists, said public school teachers, principals and administrators are not allowed to organize or promote any type of religious activity on campus.

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"Release time is not an opportunity for teachers or administrators to circumvent long-established laws prohibiting organized religion in public schools,” Kahle said in a press release.

Michigan state law forbids ministers or other adults to come onto a public school campus and preach during school hours.

"Clergy and adults are forbidden from participating in any voluntary, student-initiated religious activity that takes place on school property during school hours, including during lunch and recess periods,” Kahle said. 

However, students are allowed to organize peer-led prayer groups and religious clubs, said Cross Creek prinicpal Joe Nieuwkoop.

Nieuwkoop said the school allows student-led clubs, including those with religious elements, to use empty classrooms during recess. 

"It should be noted that students organized during non-instructional time, no instructional classroom use was compromised, and participation was voluntary," Nieuwkoop said in a statement.

Niuwkoop believes the school is not violating the Constitution’s protection of religious freedom because the school does not support one church or religion above other causes.

Kahle made a similar complaint last month to Hudsonville Public Schools, where students were attending Bible Club meetings in a school parking lot during their lunch breaks. 

Hudsonville school officials said they stopped the meetings and contacted the organization that led them about ensuring compliance with the law.

Sources: MLive / Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons