Religion

Mississippi Teacher Under Fire For Using Prayer Board In Classroom

| by Emily Smith

Mississippi woman Randi Roger was criticized by a humanist group after she put a prayer request board up in her eighth grade classroom.

The board first came to the attention of activists when a student of Roger's -- who is a teacher at Oak Grove Middle School in Lamar County -- took a picture of the board, WDAM News reported. Apparently, Rogers confronted the student after class.

The student’s parents then contacted the American Humanist Association in Washington D.C. about the board In response, AHA’s Appignana Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith asking that the board be removed.

"Ms. Rogers accused the student of 'disrespecting' the teacher's religion and that even if having the word 'prayer' was illegal, she would continue to write names on the prayer board of those for whom she would be praying," the letter stated. "Ms. Rogers said that if the student didn't like it, she could move to another part of the classroom."

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The letter continued, noting that the board is a violation of the Constitution and that refusing to remove it would be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Additionally, the letter asked for written confirmation that no other classrooms or teachers would promote or endorse a specific religion.

"A student who then raised a question about it ...was greeted with apparent hostility, which sends a message to the 8th graders that students who don't share the teacher's religious perspective may not be as welcome or treated as warmly inside the classroom," Constitutional law professor Matt Steffey said. "I think this is why the courts have generally frowned upon activities of this kind."

The AHA noted that if the board is not removed by next Monday, it would take the matter to federal court.

Smith confirmed that the prayer board has been taken down pending direction from the school board attorney. Smith added that the district attorney plans on replying to AHA by Wednesday. 

Sources: WDAM, The Clarion Ledger

Photo Credit: The Clarion Ledger, WDAM