East Texans unite in prayer, take a stand for their religious freedoms

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

MOUNT VERNON, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- Hundreds of East Texans gathered for prayer over the weekend following a letter of complaint to the Mount Vernon Independent School District by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a small Wisconsin-based anti-Christian group.

The letter listed grievances about such diverse items as crosses on a kindergarten teacher's wall, a high school Spanish teacher's display of "Bible Verses for Teachers," and religious quotes painted in hallways of multiple schools. FFRF also challenged the district's "FAITH Family TIGERS" t-shirts, available for purchase, and said all the religious materials "should be removed immediately."

The Daily Tribune reported Monday, Nov. 7, a crowd of roughly 400 including residents from nearby Pittsburg, Winnsboro, Quitman, Sulphur Springs, Saltillo, Talco and Bogata attended a Sunday afternoon prayer service held at the school district's administration building.

School officials told the Christian Examiner there have been several public meetings in support of religious freedom since Superintendent John Kauffman received a letter from the FFRA on Nov. 4.

While some of the gatherings were student led, others were coordinated by community members. Sunday's widely attended event was organized by a Mount Vernon photographer, Amanda Gary, who has a kindergartner in the school district.

Officials emphasized all of the meetings were held during non-school hours and were not endorsed or encouraged by school employees.

A large crowd also attended the regularly scheduled school board meeting, Monday, Nov. 10. The public session drew many supporters interested in learning about how the district plans to respond to the FFRA letter.

The complaint was listed on the the agenda to give the public a chance to voice their opinions. Only one individual out of dozens of speakers supported FFRA's complaint. Aftreward, the discussion was moved to a closed-door session where school board members met with legal counsel to plan a course of action.

"At this point we are not changing anything, and we won't be bringing out a response until next month," a school official said.

The school board meets the second Monday of every month, with the next business session set for Dec. 8.

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