About a week ago I came across an article stating that the Williamson County school board right here in Middle Tennessee was considering instituting a Christian prayer at the beginning of each meeting. For those not familiar with Tennessee geography, Williamson County is one of the counties adjacent to Metropolitan Nashville – Davidson County, aka Music City. Naturally, they are many commuters to Nashville who live in Williamson County, and I happen to be one of them. You can therefore imagine my anger when I heard about this clear Constitutional violation. And why, you may ask, am I so certain of this violation? Because soon after this article appeared, the Tennessee chapter of the ACLU issued a statement which says, in part:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has declared that prayers at school board meetings are unconstitutional. In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. Of Educ., the Court held that the “the practice of opening each school board meeting with a prayer has the primary effect of endorsing religion.”
That’s pretty clear language, no? Even the school board attorney acknowledges it’s illegality:
Citing a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, board attorney Bill Squires said praying at school board meetings has been ruled unconstitutional, though praying before public meetings such as at city council meetings remains legal.
Of course, this doesn’t stop certain board members from still wanting to institute the prayer, regardless of whatever legal costs might be incurred, you know, because Jesus:
Board member Candace Emerson maintains prayer ought to be part of the meetings because of its value.
“A prayer has saved my life more than once,” Emerson said. “I’m just telling you, there’s an incredible power, especially when it’s collective. I know I would not be sitting in this chair today — on two occasions recently.”
Because prayer has been proven to save people lives, says no study ever.
Thankfully, the Superintendent of the school system seems to recognize the idiocy of challenging a court ruling, and what costs would be involved:
WCS Superintendent Mike Looney challenged board members to think about the cost of the fight.
“Are you willing to stand up on a matter of principle and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees to make a point based on your personal belief that may or may not align with those of other people in the community?” Looney said.
So at least there are some sane people at the Williamson County school board.
Naturally, as a newly minted member of the FFRF, I went to their page for reporting potential violations and made a request for them to send a letter gently reminding the board of their obligations under the law. I haven’t heard anything back, possibly because the board hasn’t actually tried to institute the prayer (yet), but I did come across the previously mentioned ACLU statement. Hopefully the school board will rethink its position and drop the whole issue. The next meeting is on October 16th, so I guess we shall soon find out. But if for some odd reason they decide to be ignoramuses and actually try to make this invocation to their Skydaddy a reality, there shall be a protest, and I shall be a part of it.