Atheist group sues Georgia school about voluntary prayer

by Will Hall, |

SWAINSBORO, Ga. (Christian Examiner) – The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims 400 members reside among Georgia's population of more than 10 million, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Emanuel County School District alleging Swainsboro Primary School staff violated "the personal consciences of nonreligious parents and students."

The legal action was taken on behalf of a first grader and kindergartner, identified as "Jesse and Jamie Doe" to protect their privacy, in part because of a regular lunchtime prayer, FFRF said.

In the younger child's class, the teacher led students to pray: "God our Father, We give thanks for our many blessings. Amen," according to the anti-Christian group's court filing. The older student said her classmates followed their teacher in a similar prayer.

In response to the parents' complaint, the teachers were said to have allowed the students to go into the hallway during the brief time of prayer as well as during the Pledge of Allegiance. But FFRF alleges the children were treated gruffly in allowing them to opt out of the activities and that it only served to draw negative attention from classmates.

Eventually, according to FFRF's complaint, the children's parents decided to homeschool the younger of the two and the older child was moved to a different class.

The school system has not issued a statement on the lawsuit.

On Monday night, Feb. 9, the school board held a regularly scheduled meeting but the agenda did not include any items relating to potential legal action against the district. But it did list prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance as the opening actions.