A Pace High School principal and athletic director faces possible jail time for violating the terms of an out of court settlement of a lawsuit by the ACLU against the Santa Rosa County School District. The trial for Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman is set to begin in September. A community group is helping the men with legal expenses with a fund raising campaign. The ACLU brought a suit against the school district in August 2008, claiming that school district officials flagrantly violated students’ constitutional rights for several years. Part of the article explains the origins of the controversy:
The fight involving the ACLU, the school district and several devout Christian employees began last August when the ACLU sued Santa Rosa County Schools on behalf of two students who had complained privately to the group's Florida affiliate, claiming some teachers and administrators were allowing prayers at school events such as graduations, orchestrating separate religiously themed graduation services, and "proselytizing" students during class and after school.
In January, the Santa Rosa County School District settled out of court with the ACLU, agreeing to several things, including a provision to bar all school employees from promoting or sponsoring prayers during school-sponsored events; holding school events at church venues when a secular alternative was available; or promoting their religious beliefs or attempting to convert students in class or during school-sponsored events.
The story goes on to report:
The criminal charges, which carry up to a $5,000 fine and a six-month jail term, originated with a Jan. 28 incident in which Mr. Lay, a deacon at a local Baptist church, asked Mr. Freeman to offer mealtime prayers at a lunch for school employees and booster-club members who had helped with a school field-house project.
The ACLU brought the matter to the attention of U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who issued a contempt order for the two men.
The ACLU has been monitoring school meetings for possible violations of the settlement order. More troubling, though, is a clause in the settlement which prevented the senior class President and the student body President from even speaking to their fellow graduates during the graduation ceremony. President Mary Allen is known to her Pace High School community to be a Christian, and therefore she was denied her opportunity to speak because of what she might say. She was the first class president in 33 years who was not allowed to speak at graduation. The student body President is a Christian as well.
What could Miss Allen have said that would have been so terrible for her classmates to hear? That she knows God loves her? That a relationship with God has changed her life in a positive way? That God’s hand has guided her and will continue to do so in the future? Apparently this kind of radical talk is being suppressed in Santa Rosa County before it gets out of hand. Would a similar prohibition be placed on a Muslim or a Hindu? Keep in mind that the ACLU, supposedly in existence to protect the civil liberties of people like Mary Allen and her classmate, forced an agreement in which singled them out and prevented them from sharing sincere beliefs expressly because they were Christian. It’s a shame that accomplished students' constitutional rights were squashed in a dispute that was originally aimed at school administrators.
Below is a video showing how many of the students stood up for the rights of their classmates:
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