Trial to begin in school prayer lawsuit
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) ” A school board voted against settling a lawsuit that contends the district promoted Christianity by allowing a parents’ prayer group to meet regularly at an elementary school.
A trial on the matter was set to begin Wednesday, a day after the Wilson County School Board voted 3-2 against accepting the settlement. Neither the county’s attorney nor the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the plaintiffs, would describe terms of the settlement.
According to court documents, a group called the Praying Parents met at Lakeview Elementary School to pray for the school, teachers and students.
The group gave fliers promoting its activities to students and gave at least one student a card saying the group had prayed for the student. There was also a link to the Praying Parents’ Web site on the school’s site.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in September 2006 on behalf of an anonymous Lakeview student and his parents. It asks the court to stop the activities and prevent the school from supporting them in the future.
The lawsuit names the school, the school’s then-principal and other officials as defendants.
The plaintiff, a parent of a student who attended kindergarten at the school in 2005-2006, complained to school administrators about the activities. According to the complaint, she was told Lakeview had a reputation as a religious school and the activities would continue, an allegation the school has denied.
The plaintiffs claim the only way to protect their child from Christian proselytizing was to withdraw him from Lakeview and homeschool him. They also have not sent a younger child to the school because of the same concerns.
“A reasonable observer could conclude that the Praying Parents wielded significant religious influence among the administration, faculty, staff and students,” Judge Robert Echols wrote in a memorandum denying a request to dismiss the suit.
Members of the Praying Parents have intervened in the suit, claiming the plaintiffs are violating their rights by attempting to deny them the exercise of religious freedom.