Administrators, teachers and coaches promote “pro-Christian” beliefs at school events, wrote Krystal Myers, an atheist, in the Lenoir City High School (Tennessee) school newspaper. But school officials pulled the honor student’s editorial, claiming it would be “disruptive,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Schools Director Wayne Miller said the school district is not violating the law.
Prayers at athletic events are student-led. School board meetings do begin with a prayer, but there are usually no students present, he said.
One teacher wears T-shirts that depict the crucifix, Myers wrote. Other teachers often use Bible verses for the “Quote of the day” written on classroom boards. Coaches encourage team prayer before competitions. “As the captain of the swim team, I feel I have to be a part of it.”
Myers also cited Lee vs. Wiseman, a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a case where a parent tried to stop a rabbi from speaking at a middle school graduation. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“The school’s rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion,” the ruling said.