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Florida Principal and Athletic Director Face Criminal Charges for Praying

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I never thought I’d live to see the day when Americans would be put in jail for praying.

But it’s true –

[T]wo school officials are facing criminal charges for offering mealtime prayers at an appreciation dinner for adults who had helped with a school field house project. Principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman are scheduled to go on trial next month (September) on criminal contempt charges. If convicted, both are subject to fines and imprisonment.

Go to prison for praying? You’ve got to be kidding me!


The story starts in August of last year, when the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Pace High School students who “alleged that school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events”.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Santa Rosa County (Pensacola) School District, charging the school officials with committing widespread violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ACLU got the District to agree to an order that essentially “bans all employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities, whether before, during, or after school hours.” Without any legal argument, the federal district court in Pensacola, Florida, entered the Consent Order.

Matt Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, who has appeared on Huckabee and other news outlets this past week, is representing the two administrators,  and will argue that the court order prohibiting prayer at school-related events violated Lay's and Freeman's constitutional rights. Staver has announced that Lay and Freeman could be fined $5000 and face six months in jail, and with over 70 years collectively as administrators, could lose their retirement.

As Staver states so accurately, “it is outrageous to punish a school official with potential jail time for simply praying”. It’s one thing to restrict teachers from proselytizing while at work and on school grounds, but it is totally ludicrous to say they can’t pray! It violates the First Amendment, which states, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof'"

It’s not enough that school prayer was banned from our public schools back in 1963, that we’ve taken down the Ten Commandments from our judicial buildings, parks, and other places, and that we no longer call our holidays (days of religious festival) by their real names representing their origins, Christmas is now Winter Break, and Easter is Spring Break, the ACLU wants more!

The ACLU continually targets Christianity and currently wants to tear down the large white cross that is part of the Mojave Desert Veterans' Memorial, placed there by The Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1934 in memory of those who fought and died in World War I, yet the ACLU defended the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and its website, a group that advocates sex between men and boys and whose goal is to "end the oppression of men and boys who have mutually consensual relationships". NAMBLA became the target of a lawsuit when a viewer of their website attempted to molest then brutally murdered a 10-year-old boy on October 1, 1997.Just knowing about this website gives me the creeps and to be honest, I only uncovered this story as I wrote this article; I didn’t view their website because I would really lose my mind, but I do know it still exists. That being said, the fact that the ACLU would side with NAMBLA’s right to free speech, in spite of what they are advocating and promoting just shows the depravity of their code and in the midst of such brutality makes it that much more pathetic.  And this “liberty fighting” group wants to put school administrators in jail for praying – are you kidding me?

The ACLU labels themselves as “the nation’s guardian of liberty,” working to defend and preserve individual rights.  However, their crusade to destroy Christianity is just part of a bigger picture, and the roots of this powerful organization should be divulged.  The ACLU was founded in the 1920’s by Roger Baldwin, a socialist, and Crystal Eastman, described as a progressive and "the perfect feminist." Baldwin was quoted, laying out the goals of the ACLU, "I am for socialism, disarmament, and ultimately, for abolishing the state itself… I seek social ownership of property, the abolition of the properties class, and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

Anyone who has followed the destructive path of the ACLU can see that they are not about defending our Constitution, but more about bending it to fit their political world view. Although many members and lawyers would say they aren't communist today, the foundation of communism does influence the way they look at things, and thus impacts their fight and motives behind “defending and preserving individual rights” in the name of so-called justice.

Don’t forget that the ACLU also is known for attacking the traditional foundation of the family in our society. This is why they fight against parental notification of abortions, school choice, and the parent's role in educating their children, and much more.

I shouldn’t be too shocked, because our society accepts an NFL player back into the game of football to make millions after he led a dog fighting racket and brutally slaughtered and tortured innocent animals with his bare hands, yet only served 19 months in jail.  A Florida judge permittted an alleged child molester with a criminal record to go to Disney World, while some judges have actually allowed convicted child molesters to walk away with probation and treatment.  Iin a 2006 case, Judge Edward Cashman sentenced a child molester, who had sexually molested 6-year-old girl over a four year period, to only 60 days in jail.

Less violent, but still intrusive and more relevant to this story, are the liberal professors like Ward Churchill, Rosalyn Kahn, and Andrew Hallam who only get a slap on the wrist when they try to force their liberal beliefs (for some politics is their religion) on others, use their power to refuse academic credit to those who don’t espouse their political views, and demean and bully their students for being Republicans. Where’s the ACLU’s protection of our college students’ right to learn in a peaceful and unbiased environment?

Now the ACLU wants to put these two hard-working, dedicated school administrators in jail for praying over a meal and the courts are going along with it. Is this America? Sounds more like a news story you would find coming from Iran or the Taliban.

This is a slippery slope, my friends, pretty soon we’ll find the ACLU on our doorsteps trying to make it illegal to pray in our own homes and at our place of worship!  I love my country, She is the land of the free, but it is the God in whom I believe who gave me free will so that I can make the choice whether I want to pray or not – something the ACLU can never take away.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • This is simply an outrage. We have people that beat the heck out of others and more horrible crimes that walk away scott free. Two men praying……May My God look over them and keep them safe.

  • Phyllis

    I agree. By whose authority can the ACLU enforce no prayer in schools? We’re an upside down nation when people can spout and post profanities in public but one can not even bow one’s head to pray in silence in a public school to ask God to guide, bless or protect us.

  • As usual, more hyperbole from those who only want to see one side of the story and who, despite the fact that there’s a megachurch on practically every block of every American city, insist that Christianity is being persecuted into oblivion.

    From CNN:

    ‘”We’re not going after individuals,” said Glenn Katon, director of the Religious Freedom Project for the ACLU of Florida. “We’re just trying to make sure that school employees comply with the court order.”

    The ACLU did not request the criminal contempt charges against Lay and Freeman, he said; the judge initiated them after seeing a reference to the incident in a motion. And the ACLU is not involved in the criminal proceedings, he said.”‘

    [my emphasis]

    Ironic that the author is incandescent with outrage at the ACLU’s alleged crusade to suppress religious expression, yet is strangely silent on the organization’s record of defending individuals whose rights of religious expression have been violated.

    Even more ironic that on the third page of her article she contradicts her own argument by linking to the ACLU’s statement of principles regarding the First Amendment.

  • Dr. Dreadful:
    “The ACLU did not request the criminal contempt charges against Lay and Freeman”, however, they were the ones that designed the “Consent Order” in the first place!

    “Last year the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Santa Rosa County School District and got the District to agree to an order that essentially bans all employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities, whether before, during, or after school hours”.

  • “an order that essentially bans all employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities, whether before, during, or after school hours”

    In their capacity as school employees. Nobody’s denying them their right to pray privately.

  • Clavos

    In their capacity as school employees. Nobody’s denying them their right to pray privately.

    I fail to see how their leading prayers at an appreciation dinner, school related or not, constitutes “mak[ing] [a] law respecting an establishment of religion.”

    This is one long stretch of an interpretation.

  • But it’s the judge’s interpretation, not the ACLU’s.

  • Clavos

    But it’s the judge’s interpretation, not the ACLU’s.

    True, but no less wrongheaded for being so.

    [And I’m an atheist]

  • Ruvy


    Even an atheist can see the obvious – what you seek to obfuscate. The court order was entered BECAUSE the ACLU showed up with a complaint; it would not have been entered otherwise.

    Conditions change in countries. Fifty years ago, the vast majority of students in America were Christians or Jews. So, for a teacher to read a psalm from the Hebrew Bible would not have been offensive or an imposition of anything. Today, as child populations in school have changed, it could easily be interpreted as attempting to impose religion. The Buddhists, Hindus and Moslems would not necessarily appreciate the songs of King David or King Solomon being taught their children, no matter how poetic.

    The judge’s interpretation in the case cited above was wrongheaded, and it was an unacceptable stretch of the reach of the First Amendment. That is why there are superior courts. Judges can and do make mistakes. Hopefully, this mistake will be vacated by a higher court. If not, your country is going down the toilet.

    Heck, it’s going down the toilet anyway.

  • Arch Conservative

    We all know that if this were a bunch of muslims throwing down prayer rugs in school the ACLU wouldn’t say a peep.

  • bjohnson

    Did Lay intend to follow the court order? What did Lay think would happen if he ignored the court order? If he did not think the court order was written fairly and the school could win the law suit why did he sign the concent decree in the first place.

  • Clavos

    If he did not think the court order was written fairly and the school could win the law suit why did he sign the concent [sic] decree in the first place.

    Good question. Why don’t you research it and get back to us?

  • dee

    Crazy – These are adults! Prayer didn’t poison anyones food, did it? I think the sissy that ratted them out for saying the prayer should be exposed! That’s the real criminal. People like this waste our tax dollars every day for bogas law suits that mean NOTHING! We need to put a stop to it. Children were not present at this event. Grow Up People!

  • OK, you are ALL right, thanks for your comments.

    In fairness to the ACLU, they may not be the ones who want these two in jail, however, they were the ones that filed the initial lawsuit and impose a bogus “consent order” that the court agreed to!

    Let’s hope the court does the right thing and drops this case!

  • Dr E

    Welcome to Amerika (no that wasn’t a typo)

  • The kneejerkers probably won’t take me up on this suggestion, but they could do worse than take a look at the ACLU’s website. They would discover to their dismay… um, I mean surprise… that the ACLU is as adamant about defending people’s right to religious expression under the First Amendment as they are about prosecuting infringements of the anti-establishment clause.

    Christine herself linked, on page 3 of her article, to the ACLU’s stand on the First Amendment, which is based on precedent and case law.

    Yet there’s never any acknowledgment from those who have hissy fits about this sort of incident of the ACLU’s frequent and unstinting defense of individuals’ right to express their religion freely.

  • Dr. D:

    Thanks for pointing to my link of which you seem to think it debunks my case:

    Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law

    First I was trying to make the point that students can pray at public school with certain restrictions.

    “Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners.”

    However, as far as teachers go:

    Official Participation or Encouragement of Religious Activity

    4. Teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state, and, in those capacities, are themselves prohibited from encouraging or soliciting student religious or anti-religious activity. Similarly, when acting in their official capacities, teachers may not engage in religious activities with their students. However, teachers may engage in private religious activity in faculty lounges.

    This actually helps my case, because teachers are allowed to “engage in private religious activity (prayer) in faculty lounges”. Nowhere does it state they can’t pray at a luncheon, or before or after school.

    And it seems to me that even if they are in their role as a teacher, they are prohibited from proselytizing and engaging in religious activities WITH their students.

    So even if you want to say they were in “teacher mode” at the luncheon (which is debatable), it was reported by Staver that there were no students there!

    So the “court order” was actually unconstitutional by their own definition on the ACLU website. And even went much further.

    So why would the ACLU (an organization you defend) design a “consent order” that “essentially bans all employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities, whether before, during, or after school hours”?

    And it’s not all the ACLU…I blame the Judge that agreed to the court order and the school district for not fighting against it! They are all to blame for this getting out of control!

    It’s just not right, don’t you agree?

    How’s Fresno?

  • Christine, I agree that jail time is inappropriate, and so does the ACLU.

    This is their official response to the fuss. It answers a number of your points, including Staver’s claim that there were no students present(he’s either misinformed or lying).

    Fresno’s hot and smoggy. In other news, the tide continues to go in and out. 🙂

  • Ted

    Christianity is dying on its own, it doesn’t need the help of the ACLU. As technology advances ever more rapidly, it will quietly slip into obsolescence.

    I’m praying to Jesus that the day will come soon.

  • Clavos

    Actually, the tide doesn’t really…oh, never mind.

  • OK, that one went over my head….about the tide?

  • There, there, Clav. Have a nice cup of tea and everything will be all right. 🙂

  • Clav, in your travels did you ever find yourself on the shores of the Bristol Channel, in south-west England?

    The seabed there slopes extremely gradually – it’s almost flat – so that at low tide the water recedes so far as not even to be visible from the shoreline. The ocean really does appear to go in and out.

  • Clavos

    Never been to the Bristol Channel, but I did visit the Bay of Fundy once, briefly.

    Talk about the tide appearing to go in and out. If you’re not vigilant, it’ll slap you upside the head, grab you in its teeth and ship you all the way to Greenland!

  • Clavos, that was a cool video of Bay of Fundy!

  • Mark

    Christine, your problem is with the Law and the Court, not with the ACLU, which, despite the hyperbolic stance of your article, does not have the power of a branch of government.

  • Clavos

    …the ACLU, which, despite the hyperbolic stance of your article, does not have the power of a branch of government.


  • Mark

    Now, if only we could remove the power of government from the government.

  • Jackson

    Why do people say things like “…that we’ve taken down the Ten Commandments from our judicial buildings” and those same people go to Denny’s right after church for lunch. I guess they forgot the 4th commandment.

  • there’s a simple solution, if you don’t want to pray, don’t pray, but you should let others do so.

    proselytizing is a whole other issue, which i have problems with, but prayer? Totally ridiculous.

    Thanks to the ACLU and its agenda, we are treading the road to Godless-ness. very sad.

  • You are so right Incognito!

  • Dana Hallmark

    This is a outrage thats whats wrong this country now . But I wonder are they going to make them Swear on the BIBLE????

  • Ron

    the day they start putting christians in jail for praying , its time for war. Its time for the ACLU to DIE. We should give ACLU members a gift. LeTs send them a bullet with their names on it.

  • Doug Hunter

    “the day they start putting christians in jail for praying , its time for war.”

    When would Jesus start a war? He rebuked Peter for attacking soldiers coming to kill him. Many early christians were imprisoned, tortured and persecuted in the new testament and there is not one example of them any christian ever starting a war or any kind of violent resistance. You’re either a troll or an ignoramus, but in either case the pacifist nature expressed in the bible is something christians need to be reminded of.

  • jan

    Church and state are not to be mixed.
    They should have been jailed.
    This trial was a warning. Next time there shall not be an acquittal.
    Vote no for the return of state and church.