Religion in Society

School Board President Wants To Begin Each Meeting With Prayer

| by Karen Eisenberg

Frank Pintabone, President of the Easton, PA school board is recommending that all members join in prayer before the start of each meeting. Pintabone needs four members of the board to agree. So far he has the support of three.

According to lehighvalleylive, Sara Rose, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said her organization would consider taking legal action against the Easton school board if a complaint were made.

Rose predicts the Easton school board will find itself faced with legal action if it moves forward with mandatory prayer before each meeting. Rose says "Under the (U.S.) Third Circuit (Court of Appeals), it's very clear that the school board can't have a person read a prayer at the beginning of each meeting,” as reported by lehighvalleylive.

The courts have allowed other organizations such as city councils to pray before meetings. Lehighvalleylive reports that Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. begins each council meeting with prayer and says it’s been that way for about 35 years. Panto Jr. tells lehighvalleylive "I think it's important that we do something to ask for advice and wisdom. I don't see anything wrong with prayer at all. Prayer never hurt anyone.”

Rose explains that the reason courts allow city council members to participate in prayer at the start of a meeting, but not school boards, is because the courts are concerned with safeguarding children from “religious coercion.” It is likely that children will be present during school board meetings, in the audience or as a representative, and it is likely that they will be influenced by what is happening around them. 

Mcall.com, reports that Easton board member, Robert Obey, has sided with Pintabone. Obey asked fellow members to explain how it can be acceptable to recite the Pledge of Allegiance during school board meetings, which includes the phrase “Under God,” but not allow prayer.

Sources: lehighvalleylive.com; mcall.com

Photo: wikimedia