Lizarda Urena, a Connecticut mother of two, has been reading Bible verses and praying on the steps of Concord High School for months. Urena does this for about 20 minutes every morning as children enter the school.
But Urena, who has two kids at the school, won’t be permitted to perform her morning readings and prayers anymore. Someone within the Concord community contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FRFF), who then contacted Superintendant Chris Rath about the mother’s prayers. After some deliberation, the Superintendant has ruled that Urena will no longer be permitted to preach and pray at the school.
In its letter to Superintendant Rath, the FRFF said that “In allowing Ms. Urena to pray aloud daily...the Concord School District is placing its ‘stamp of approval’ on the religious messages contained in her prayers.”
Neither Rath nor Concord High School Principal Gene Connolly has commented on their ruling. Urena spoke briefly to the Concord Monitor yesterday. She told the Monitor that she had a scheduled meeting with Principal Connolly today.
“I already told my daughter (a student at the school) this is about my prayer,” she said. “I understand, and I appreciate Mr. Connolly giving me a good opportunity. Even the superintendent, Chris Rath, she was nice to me, and I appreciate what they did.”
The issue has evoked mixed reactions from different organizations in the community. The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union agrees with the school’s decision to prevent Urena from preaching in front of the school. Meanwhile, the Alliance for Defending Freedom opposes the ruling. The organization released a statement on the issue.
“The students know it’s the mother and her own speech, something that the First Amendment protects, and that it is not the school mandating this woman to do it.”
Since many students are required to go to the public high school, the case is stirring up some fascinating conversation about the rights and limits granted in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
What do you think? Should Urena be allowed to preach on the school’s steps, or did the Superintendant make the right decision by asking her not to? Let us know in the comment section below.