The parents of a 5-year-old girl who was reportedly told to stop praying over her lunch in public school are demanding an apology from and an investigation into the school.
During the week of March 10, kindergartner Gabriella Perez came home from Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Fla. and told her parents that her teacher had told her to stop praying during lunch.
Her shocked parents recorded their daughter’s rendition of the incident, and proceeded to upload the video to Youtube.
“The lunch teacher said, ‘You’re not allowed to pray.’ I said, ‘It’s good to pray.’ She said, ‘It’s not good,’” Gabriella says in the footage.
Gabriella’s father, Marcos, emailed and called the principal to complain.
Seminole County Public School Officials, however, claimed that no one remembered the incident happening.
Nonetheless, Kathy Perez maintains that her daughter was not lying. “She wanted to pray, but she’s a rule-follower,” Kathy said in a news conference on Tuesday. “I told her she did the right thing. I don’t doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth.”
District spokesman Michael Lawrence said that after the video was uploaded, the school’s principal specifically “made it clear to staff that students do have the right to pray in school.”
Lawrence added that the school doesn’t “have a policy against student prayer at all.”
Marcos Perez, a vice president of sales at Christian book publisher Charisma House, said that he “didn’t expect anyone to step forward and take the blame.”
In response to the suggestion that he might be using the incident to promote the publishing house’s religious books, Perez said that such an action “would be egregious.”
“I’m a father first, a VP of sales second,” Perez stated.
The family is now being represented by Texas-based law firm Liberty Institute. Lawyer Jeremiah Dys said that “the principal has pretty much dismissed this.”
Gabriella has been taken out of the school; her parents are considering home-schooling their child.
Tyler Johnson runs a ministry called the Dead Raising Team, which, unlikely as it may seem, is exactly what it sounds like: Johnson claims to have brought 11 people back from the dead.
A new documentary film called "Deadraisers" follows similar enthusiasts as they try to bring people back to life in hospitals and mortuaries.
Unfortunately, despite the Deadraisers’ efforts, those who are dead at the beginning of the film are still dead at the end of the film.
Johnson is a graduate of Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry. He and his wife, Christine, have four kids. As described on the DRT website, they “hope to see a DRT started in every city in the world, so that nobody could die without being prayed back to life.”
He says that he successfully managed to persuade authorities in his state to issue him an official photocard, which allows him to get through police lines at car accident sites.
However, Johnson is also unwilling to provide successful case studies. Generally, much of the proof cited by believers is questionable, such as one notable case in which an American heart surgeon allegedly brought a heart attack patient back from the dead with a prayer – and a defibrillator.
British couple Alun and Donne Leppit, both Evangelical Christians, are similarly convinced that the dead can be raised through the power of prayer. Alun is the pastor of a Pentecostal church is Southampton.
In the BBC 4 program "Out of the Ordinary: The Power of Prayer," Donna lamented the dearth of corpses in the U.K. that they can practice their prayers on.
One corpse they did get to practice on was Donna’s brother, who had died of a heart attack. He had been dead for eight hours by the time they prayed over him, which they did for nearly an hour; their attempts were not successful.
Rather than being discouraged, Donna looks on the experience as “practice.”
“But in this country, we don’t often get access to dead bodies,” Donna noted.
Alun and Donna Leppitt are part of a worldwide fellowship of Evangelical Christians called Global Awakening. Global Alliance missionaries are converting people in countries like Mozambique and Brazil to Christianity with spectacular displays that claim to heal through prayer.
Photo Source: http://freethinker.co.uk
“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson's granddaughter Sadie Robertson, 16, told an audience in Montgomery, Ala. on Sunday that her family's TV show has led to “Duck Dynasty clubs” in schools across the country.
Student members of “Duck Dynasty clubs” pray before lunch at schools, according to Sadie.
“For a TV show to bring prayer into schools, that’s awesome,” she added.
Sadie was speaking at a fundraiser for a private school, Prattville Christian Academy, at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre where seats cost $38.50 to $82.50, reports the Montgomery Advertiser.
For people who wanted to meet Sadie, the cost was $100 per ticket.
Sadie's mother, Korie Robertson, accompanied her daughter on the trip, but didn't appear at the fundraiser.
Sadie was asked about her grandfather's controversial statements about gay people and black people during a GQ Interview in December 2013, but declined to answer, noted USA Today.
“I’m sure we could all say a lot about that, but the family has decided we’re not going to talk about it really,” replied Sadie. “But we will say we’re really glad for us all to be back together as a family because [he’s] the leader. We couldn’t do anything without him.”
If all goes according to state lawmakers’ plans in South Carolina, public school teachers will soon be filling a moment of silence with a prayer to begin each school day. Should the legislature pass, students who don’t wish to participate in the prayer would be allowed to simply leave the classroom.
The bill, H. 3526, was introduced in February of 2013, but is currently held up in the House Committee on Judiciary. The Supreme Court has noted that as a case of government endorsing religion, the bill violates the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Lawmakers have responded by saying that they are willing to compromise on whether the teachers lead the prayer.
As Democratic Representative Wendell Gilliard, one of the bill’s sponsors, said, “If they want to do away with teachers conducting the prayer, that would be fine with us.”
The teacher would merely conduct the moment of silence, and students would be free to pray to whomever they please.
“The essential part of the bill, the important part, is putting prayer back in school," Gilliard continued.
The overwhelming majority of the bill’s sponsors in the House of Representatives are Democrats. Joining Wendell Gilliard are fellow Democrats Robert Williams, Joseph Jefferson, Carl Anderson, Bill Clyburn, Lonnie Hosey, and Robert Ridgeway III. Amongst its Republican House of Representative supporters are Liston Barfield, Heather Ammons Crawford, and Don Wells.
Sources: The Raw Story, Huffington Post
Photo Source: http://enriquesantos.com
Some Muslim workers in Cincinnati were fired recently for taking time to pray on the job after their company changed its policy on flexible break times.
Mohamed Maow, along with nearly two-dozen other Somali refugees who had been legally working part and full time at DHL Global Mail, was fired after stopping for a five minute evening prayer that is required by the religion of Islam. The three-year employee of DHL has never received any negative reviews for his work over the years, and in the past, the company allowed flexible break times that enabled the Muslim workers to be able to pray when they needed to.
After changing their break policy, however, Muslim workers were left with no choice but to take the five-minutes to pray. Workers claim that they told supervisors that they would go off the clock for the prayer time, but they weren’t allowed.
"We do not have a choice," said Shahira Abdullah, 21. "We must stop what we are doing and pray. We were not asking for an additional break."
A new supervisor had taken over not long before the group was fired, and that is when the policy changed. On October 9th, Maow and the other 23 Muslim workers stopped to pray at 7:24pm. After their prayer, three workers were called into the office by the supervisor and told they were all fired. Police were called to the scene to make sure that there were no harsh reactions when the workers were leaving the building.
Now, 12 complaints, including one from Maow, have been filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and 12 more are still expected to be filed.
"We are requesting all available remedies allowed under Title VII (of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, including but not limited to: damages, reinstatement where appropriate and policy changes to ensure that all worker's civil rights are respected," said Booker Washington of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the organization that is filing the complaints on behalf of the workers.
DHL released a statement in response to the complaints filed, stating, “While we believe that all respective internal rules of DHL Global Mail are perfectly in line with legal requirements, we will investigate/consider the case carefully. DHL Global Mail is an equal opportunity employer and takes seriously all complaints of harassment and discrimination, however we do not comment in detail on pending charges or litigation. Our policies provide equal employment opportunities to all employees and comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. DHL Global Mail ensures employees’ religious practices are understood and, as reasonable, accommodated.”
Still, Maow and the 23 other Muslim workers that were fired for taking five minutes to pray claim that there was a basic lack of understanding and an unwillingness to compromise.
"First, it's religion," said Maow on the tenants of Islam. "Second, it's that you are to support your father and mother and children until they are able to care for themselves. We take work very seriously. I have never had this problem before. When I took English class at Cincinnati Public Schools, my teachers always understood when I had to pray. It never was a problem."
The matter is currently being handled, but as of right now, Maow and many other former DHL workers are unemployed.
This past week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for why one New York town should be able to start off local legislative meetings with Christian prayers.
At one point, Justice Antonin Scalia, a devout Catholic, asked the obvious question, “What is the equivalent of prayer for somebody who is not religious?”
The lawyer who was currently making his case, Thomas Hungar, was having difficulty giving a good answer to the question when Justice Stephen Breyer stepped in with his own answer.
“Perhaps he’s asking me that question and I can answer it later,” said Breyer, who seemed to think that Justice Scalia had directed that question at him.
Now, atheist groups are taking Breyer’s statement as a possible admission that he is in fact an atheist. Spokeswoman for the American Humanist Association Maggie Ardiente says that it may show Breyer’s beliefs, or, it could mean he is simply willing to be a voice for atheists who are so rarely represented in these situations.
“Elected leaders should not be in the business of leading Americans in prayer, which excludes those who are non-religious," said Ardiente. "It's a great sign that Justice Breyer seems to be willing to talk to other members of the court to help explain objections non-theists may have to any potential decision. And, if Justice Breyer is nonreligious himself, it's a great time to 'come out.' He's in good company with nearly 20 percent of the population claiming no religious affiliation."
The affiliations of the Supreme Court Justice vary, with six Catholics and three Jews currently ruling in the highest court.
In an act to safeguard separation of church and state, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning sent a letter just before the kickoff of Friday Night Football reminding coaches that they are not permitted to initiate prayer sessions with students.
The letter was in response to multiple incidents in which coaches have led prayers at games, potentially alienating players who don’t share the religious beliefs of their coach or teammates. Students are still permitted to pray alone or together.
"Students can initiate and lead prayers during any non-instructional time that you normally allow students to engage in nonreligious activities,” the letter read. "Adults may not initiate or lead prayers when acting in their official school district capacity, but are free to pray or worship privately or silently. We want students to be able to exercise their faith at appropriate times and places, but we don’t want anyone to feel coerced into participating or to feel ostracized if they choose not to participate."
It also read, "In Pasco County Schools, we respect every child’s and every adult’s right to exercise their faith. At the same time, we have an obligation to adhere to laws that prohibit teachers, school administrators, and other school employees, while acting in their official capacity, from encouraging or discouraging prayer and from actively participating in prayer activities with students.”
Earlier this year, Browning made a push to help curb bullying at school. He requested that all school faculty and staff, including administrators, take time to show students that they care about their welfare and address any issues of poor treatment by their peers.
This was in response to a number of bullying incidents over the past year, one of which led to the suicide of a 16-year-old.
“We admit as a District we are not running from the fact we have a bullying issue,” said Browning. “We as a district need to model a culture of caring.”
Presumably, this care will not involve any praying.
The Obama administration has filed a surprising amicus curiae brief defending the small town of Greece, New York and arguing their Court prayer is entirely constitutional.
As early as 1997, the Court for the small town of Greece, New York has opened its proceedings with a prayer administered by a Christian clergyman, usually at the behest of the town.
"We celebrate your son, Jesus," invokes a pastor from Lakeshore Community Church in December, 2009. Another pastor recites, "We ask all this through Christ, our Lord," closing the prayer with "Amen."
In 2008, however, two town residents sued the court arguing that the prayers were in direct violation of the first amendment’s prohibition of a state religion. The residents’ prosecution attorneys, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in April.
"The Town's litigating position -- that it would accept volunteers of any faith, whether clergy or otherwise -- was undercut by the Town's failure ever to announce, much less formally enact, an all-comers policy," reads the brief.
However, earlier this month, much to the surprise of Supreme Court veterans and scholars, the Justice Department filed an amicus curiae brief that defending Greece’s Constitution right to opening prayers. Central to this defense, interestingly, is the argument that references such as “the Holy Spirit,” and “King of Kings,” are not exclusively Christian. The argument does not address the exclusively Christian administrators of the opening prayers.
Such a defense came as a surprise to observers because the Obama administration has frequently come under fire for its stance on Healthcare from faith-based organization. With the passage of Obamacare, the administration has required church groups that morally object to provide contraception.
"In one case, you've got the government (effectively) saying a prayer in front of a legislative assembly is constitutional and fine, which I agree with," says chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. "The same Department of Justice is arguing you can compel a business owner to violate their religious conscience when it comes to the issue of abortion. “ Jay Sekulow continues, “Those are not very consistent positions."
Sources: Fox News
Republicans and the Obama administration have finally found an issue they both can agree on. Oddly enough, it seems that both factions agree that town councils should be allowed to open their meetings with a Christian prayer. In separate arguments to the Supreme Court earlier this week, lawyers from both groups asked the court to relax the constitutional limits on religious invocations at government meetings.
The court is ruling about whether an upstate New York town’s practice of holding a Christian prayer before official meetings constitutes an endorsement of that particular religion. The Obama administration told the court that the prayer should not be considered an endorsement. The prayer "does not amount to an unconstitutional establishment of religion merely because most prayer-givers are Christian and many or most of their prayers contain sectarian references," wrote U.S. Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr.
The court now has the opportunity to reverse a set of opinions that were written in the '80s by then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She ruled that government actions would violate the First Amendment if they appeared to "endorse" religion. Her determination has led to policies such as government agencies not being allowed to display the Ten Commandments in their buildings or host Nativity scenes at Christmas.
In addition to the administration’s request, 85 House members and 34 senators also urged the court to make clear that prayers and religious invocations are constitutional.
"It's gratifying that even the Obama administration recognizes that courts are not qualified to censor prayers,” said Ken Klukowski, a lawyer for the Family Research Council.
Not everyone shares that view, The LA Times reported.
"This is a big deal of a case because of what it could mean," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "It makes the administration's position doubly disappointing. A town council meeting is not like a church service, and it shouldn't be treated like it is."
Concord High School in Concord, N.H., recently banned a mother from performing public prayers against gun violence on the school’s front steps.
Lizarda Urena, a mother of two tenth grade students who attended Concord High School, had been praying to end gun violence on school grounds every morning. While just about everybody can get behind the message of less gun violence in schools, not everybody was happy with the prosthelytizing.
The school district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation after a parent complained to the organization.
“It is well settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion, including religious exercise such as prayer, ” the letter reads. It goes on to cite a laundry list of court cases including Engel v. Vitale and Lee v. Weisman. Indeed, this is not an issue of opinion — the Supreme Court has been quite clear about this issue.
Students can pray all they want publicly or privately, but the school cannot endorse any religious belief or practice, which allegedly happened when the school principal gave Urena permission to prosthelytize.
Urena argued that she was not trying to prosthelytize.
"What I am doing here is for our peace and our love, because the Bible says love your neighbor as you love yourself, and when I'm here it symbolizes peace and love and care," Urena said.
While that may be true, praying and quoting scripture also represents Christianity, which is in itself a form of prosthelytizing.
Urena now plans to pray across the street from the school at the gas station, but it is unclear whether prayers will have any impact on gun violence from so far away.
Do you agree with Urena on this issue? Do you think that she should be able to pray on school steps in defiance of Supreme Court rulings?
Source: Christian Post