A principal and an athletic director in Florida could be charged with crimes and spend six months in jail after they prayed before a meal at a school event, the Washington Times reported.
Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman will go on trial in federal district court Sept. 17. They’re accused of violating the conditions of a lawsuit settlement reached last year with the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the Times.
“I have been defending religious freedom issues for 22 years, and I’ve never had to defend somebody who has been charged criminally for praying,” said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Christian-based legal group that is defending the two school officials.
But an ACLU official said the Santa Rosa County School District has been guilty of “flagrant” First Amendment violations for years, the Times reported.
“The defendants all admitted wrongdoing,” said Daniel Mach, ACLU’s director of litigation for its freedom of religion program. “For example, the Pace High School teachers handbook asks teachers to ’embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and example, the practice of every Christian virtue.'”
The case stems from a Jan. 28 incident in which Lay, a local Baptist church deacon, asked Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees. Staver said no students were there and the event took place on school property after hours.
Mach countered that the event was held during the school day and Lay has admitted in writing that there were students present, according to the newspaper.
The ACLU contends that the allowance of the lunchtime prayer was a breach of last year’s settlement, in which the district promised, among other things, to prohibit all school employees from promoting prayers during school-sponsored events, espousing their religious beliefs and trying to convert students.
Update: Florida Prayer Case Reveals ACLU Agenda to Criminalize Christianity
We have a news release on the Santa Rosa prayer case that you can read here.
In this special Liberty Alert, we want to give you an inside look at this case through the eyes of Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who was at the hearing. This is a long message, but we hope you will read it to the end.
Santa Rosa decision: “Not Guilty” on all charges!
On Constitution Day, after an all-day hearing, Santa Rosa County, Florida, Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman were cleared of criminal contempt charges that arose from the simple blessing of a meal!
A wave of relief swept over Frank and Robert. When they heard the decision, tears of joy and cheers swept through the throngs of people who had waited outside in the rain for over ten hours.
We are, of course, very pleased and grateful to our God that these fine men – and Clerical Assistant Michelle Winkler in an earlier case – no longer face fines, possible loss of retirement benefits and jail time. But, honestly, that’s about as far as the rejoicing can go. The outrageous court order still hangs over the school system. The ACLU is still soliciting “informants.” And the employees and students of this iconic rural school district remain intimidated and confused about their God-given, inalienable rights as Americans.
I want to assure you – right here and now – that we are far from done with the ACLU in Santa Rosa…or anywhere else they try to pull this kind of outrageous legal manipulation!! Our first order of business will be to get the despicable underlying court order overturned. It’s like a snake in the grass, ready to strike again at the next innocent passerby. And like any other poisonous snake in the grass, it needs its head blown off!
After the long day of trial in Pensacola, it is late in the evening and I am in the Charlotte airport waiting for a connection to Nashville, where I will record a “Fox and Friends” segment about today’s events at 5:20 a.m. From there I fly to Liberty University, where I will speak to 11,000 students about the Constitution.
Later I will fly to Nashville to address the American Association of Christian Counselor’s conference about legal developments impacting their members’ ability to render Christ-centered advice and counsel.
You might think this is peculiar, but as I look back on the day’s events, I must tell you that if I didn’t know that I was actually experiencing them, I might have thought that I was in another dimension watching an over-the-top “B” movie about hypothetical future events. The reality, however, was that the day’s strange occurrences were actually happening! The entire day was completely surreal.