Unable to Interfere with School Prayer Rallies
by Allie Martin - Agape Press
Millions of Christian students were able to gather on their public
school campuses last week to pray as part of the annual "See You at the
Pole" observances. But students in at least two schools had to
threaten legal action for their right to assemble and pray.
In Arizona, a high school principal wanted to restrict
the rally to a limited time and ordered students to end the rally well
before school began. Meanwhile, in Michigan another high school
principal allowed students to organize a See You at the Pole rally, but
forbade them from advertising the event using posters on campus.
Brad Dacus is president of the California-based Pacific Justice
Institute, which was involved in both cases. He describes what
happened after his firm sent legal demand letters to the principals,
clearly explaining the law regarding equal access.
"[The] good news is the principals, once they understood the law, went
ahead and allowed these clubs to go on and have the same rights and
access to the facility as any other club," Dacus says. The
Arizona rally was permitted in its entirety, and the posters in the
Michigan school were permitted to be put up the same day the letter was
See You at the Pole, birthed by a group of Texas teenagers who had
attended a DiscipleNow weekend together, began in 1990. Dacus
laments there are still some school administrators who are not aware
that such rallies are constitutionally protected free speech.
"Despite the fact that the See You at the Pole has been occurring for a
good number of years now ... there are still administrators [and]
principals out there in public schools that have this attitude or idea
that somehow they have to restrict it or limit it more than they would
any other student activity," the attorney says. "And, of course,
that's not the case. [T]he law protects these students."
According to Dacus, the Arizona principal -- when approached by
concerned parents who requested a less discriminatory policy -- even
threatened to cancel the rally entirely.
PJI is in the process of publishing a handbook the discusses the
various legal rights and responsibilities of parents, students, and
administrators in public education. Dacus and his wife Susanne
have also authored a book, Reclaim Your School, that addresses the
issue of evangelizing in the public school system.
The theme of this year's See You at the Pole rallies was "Ascend: Clean
Hands, Pure Heart," taken from Psalm 24:3-4.
See You At The Pole (http://www.syatp.org)
- Pacific Justice Institute (http://www.pacificjustice.org)
2004 Agape Press.
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