Federal court order prohibits employees in TN school district from leading prayers, organizing religious events, or citing religious readings

by Laura Mize · Sep 17th, 2020 9:47 am

Last Updated Sep 21st, 2020 at 9:38 am

Employees of a Tennessee school district are now prohibited by a federal court order from leading prayers at school events, organizing or leading religious events, and citing or assigning religious texts without a non-religious, educational purpose.

Smith County School System, based in Carthage, Tennessee, has agreed to the order, which is technically known as a consent decree, to settle a lawsuit brought against the district in 2019. The Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit, alleging that the district has engaged in "unconstitutional activities."

The ACLU alleged that teachers and coaches lead prayers at school assemblies and sporting events, and read Bible verses in classes. The suit also said the district invited a Christian organization to hand out Bibles to students.

The suit states that these activities deprive parents of the ability to have their children educated in non-religious schools and favor Christian students.

"All of these activities send a clear message to minority-faith and non-religious students that they are second-class members of the school community while their Christian peers are favored by school officials," the suit reads, in part.

An August press release from the school district said a school board investigation determined some of the claims were unfounded, while some activities at the school may have "violated the requirements of the First Amendment."

"Through its investigation, the Board found no factual support for many of the allegations and denied the same," the release read.


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