Religion

Mississippi School District Owes $7,500 After Leading Event With Prayer

| by Nathaly Pesantez
A Mississippi school district will have to pay a $7,500 fine for opening a school assembly with prayer, an act that violated a previous court settlement for the district to stop "proselytizing Christianity."
 
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ordered the $7500 fine to the Rankin public school district for an honors assembly that took place last year at Brandon High School, according to Fox News. The alleged prayer that opened the ceremony went against a 2013 court settlement.

"The district's breach did not take very long and it occurred in a very bold way," read Reeve's judgment. "Its conduct displays that the district did not make any effort to adhere to the agreed judgment."

The May 2014 assembly was led by Rev. Rob Gill, a local Methodist preacher, where students in the district were honored for achieving scores greater than 22 on their ACT college admissions exams.

A student plaintiff from Northwest Rankin High School who attended the ceremony is set to receive $2,500. He was represented by the American Humanist Association in court, according to The Christian Post.

The student is also due to receive $5,000 for a lawsuit that revealed the school district's role in allowing Gideons International to give bibles to fifth grades at the Northwest Rankin Elementary School.

For this infraction, Reeves threatened a $10,000 fine for the district for future violations.

The 2013 court case in question involves the same Northwest Rankin High School student, who sued the school district and the school's former principal, Charles Frazier, for forcing him to participate in Christian-themed assemblies.

While the school said that attending assembly is not mandatory, Reeves argued that the school was pushing a Christian agenda.

"From the accounts detailed in the record, it appears that incorporating religious script and prayers with school activities has been a long-standing tradition of the district," he said.

Rankin County Superintendent Lynn Weathersby said students and teachers will not stop prayer, even in the face of the court's ruling, according to a statement by a school board attorney. For district staff, the ruling means adjusting to maintain compliance.

"As long as there is testing in schools, we believe that teachers, principals and students will continue to pray," Weathersby's statement read, according to The Christian Post. "That being said, the school district will certainly abide by the order of any court to the best of its ability and will take whatever action necessary to make sure that all principals and teachers are updated on the current status of the law and that order."

Sources: Fox NewsThe Christian Post

Photo Credit: City of Brandon via Fox News