Last Tuesday, June 24, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent its second letter to the Superintendent of the Lebanon (Missouri) R-III school district, asking them to respond to the FFRF’s previous letter about Principal Kevin Lowery’s prayer at the graduation ceremony at Lebanon High. (You can see Lowery’s prayer on YouTube here, which I now notice says “embedding disabled by request.” Now I wonder who made that request? No comments are allowed, either.)
The FFRF sent its first letter by snailmail and email on June 2, and I posted it. Delivered to the Superintendent and all the members of the Lebanon school board, it was completely ignored. Although Lowery issued a notapology for his prayer, he claimed that nobody forced him to. At the request of the FFRF I won’t reproduce the second letter, as they want to give the school board time to respond. You will see it soon.
This is a no-brainer for the Lebanon school board: if they don’t issue a written statement saying that public prayer at Lebanon High School won’t take place again (apparently Lowery did this all the time), they will be sued. I’ve already heard that the American Civil Liberties Union has some legal action in the works. And I’m pretty sure that the requirement for such a suit—a “complainant,” a student or parent willing to join a lawsuit—will be found. Given all this, and the cost of a losing suit for the Lebanon School District (for they will lose a lawsuit), they should accede to the FFRF’s reasonable request.
What we see here is a case of cognitive dissonance. The town of Lebanon is so soaked in Christianity, and the people so sure that they have the God-given (if not Constitutionally-given) right to pray in public, that they simply can’t look ahead and see the ruin that awaits them. That’s why they’re simply not responding. But if they think the ACLU or the FFRF will give up, they’re mistaken.
Meanwhile, at the American Family News Network’s site, One News Now (this is a Christian news organization), there’s a piece by Bob Kellogg, “You say I can’t pray? Well just watch me,” whose title tells it all. It gives a brief precis of what happened at Lebanon High and then adds only positive comments on the school prayer:
Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, offers his assessment of the principal’s actions.
“He basically was pointing out the ridiculous state of the law in this area – really, the prohibitions on any expression of faith in the public square, including schools,” he says.
According to Weber, a letter of complaint to the superintendent about Lowery’s comments was riddled with typos and errors. “Then they can’t even accurately cite the Declaration of Independence,” he laments. “It’s kind of ironic when you have them claiming to rest upon accuracy in the law and they make an error like that.”
Christian News Network quotes several individuals who were appreciative of Lowery’s remarks, complimenting him on his boldness and his encouragement to students – through his example – to stand up for what they believe.
Riddled with typos and errors? I’m baffled. I just read the letter quickly (read for yourself here), and I can’t see anything erroneous, though combing through it carefully might reveal a few errors. But why does that matter? As for the Declaration of Independence being misquoted, the quote used comes from Lowery, not the FFRF. As for accurately quoting the law, the FFRF correctly pointed out previous cases in which courts prohibited prayer at school-sponsored public events, including graduations. Weber is simply avoiding the issue, and makes himself look silly in the process. But of course he’s a Christian and has to dissimulate about such things.
Here’s a sample of the 39 comments; surprisingly, there are some favoring the FFRF’s stand against religious intrusion into public schools. The third one is a hoot:
Muslim indoctrination? What’s that about? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t occur in Lebanon.
And yay for this guy!
Someone even claimed that Lowery didn’t go far enough—he was a wimp to utter a silent prayer!:
But another person stood up for the Constitution, too:
The dogpile inevitably ensued:
Rosa Parks? How dare these people equate their public-school prayers with civil rights? And Parks, committing an act of civil disobedience, took the penalty for her actions. Will the people of Lebanon take theirs?
I’ll close with a typical sentiment from the area:
This is a new bit of apologetics to me: The Argument from Supper.