Update: Two educators in “Arrested for Praying” case are cleared of all charges
Santa Rosa County, FL – This past Thursday, two Christian school employees were cleared of all criminal contempt charges that arose after they prayed over a meal. See the Underground’s original article on this case, “Arrested for Praying in Public.”
Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman of the Santa Rosa County School District in Florida had been held in contempt of an earlier ACLU/ Santa Rosa County School District “Consent Order” which demanded that no Santa Rosa school employees attempt to influence anyone to their faith or exercise their faith in public. Although the luncheon honored people who had donated to a school-associated athletic project, the defense claimed there were no students at the luncheon (the ACLU claimed there were); the two educators were on their own time and felt no one in attendance objected to the meal blessing.
The ACLU website article interpreting this case holds that the men were not “arrested for praying” but because they had previously presented religious materials to students, and knowingly signed the Consent Order not to engage in the above activities again.
However, the court decided the men were not in contempt in the instance of praying at the luncheon. According to the Liberty Counsel’s Press Release (Liberty Counsel defended the two men), there were many supporters in the courtroom and on the streets, wearing t-shirts specialized for the occasion and chanting in the defendants’ favor. An enthusiastic wave of relief went through the crowd when the court decision was announced.
Case was heard on a significant day – Constitution Day
That the full day-long case took place on September 17 was ironic and significant, as it was Constitution Day for the United States of America – the U.S. Constitution was signed 222 years ago on this date. To complete the irony, a copy of the famous painting which depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence hangs in that very courtroom.
The Liberty Counsel’s next step will most likely be to get the Consent Order itself declared unconstitutional, as it could still set precedence for cases of this type around the country. There is a huge misunderstanding that the mythical phrase “separation of church and state” means people of faith must not be seen praying anywhere in public. This phrase is not even in the First Amendment or anywhere else in the Constitution, and its implications are untrue. Yet the ACLU brings many cases against Bible believers all over the country in the name of “free speech.”
In this writer’s assessment, the Constitution does not say that people have freedom from hearing someone else’s religious free speech; especially if it is peacefully delivered and unforceful.