Lawsuit Underway After Texas School District Bans Employee from Praying at Flagpole – American Faith

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Staci Barber, an employee of the Katy Independent School District in Houston, Texas.

Barber and two other teachers met at the school’s flagpole during See You At The Pole to pray for students, prompting the school principal, Bryan Rounds, to call the teachers into his office. The teachers were informed they could not pray publicly.

“A school can prevent employees from getting distracted when they are supposed to be acting according to their official duties,” ACLJ wrote, describing the case. “But what it cannot do is prevent school employees from expressing their religious faith at all.”

“A school cannot prohibit any religious expression where children might be present on the fear that children might participate or see the religious activity. The right of teachers to express their religious beliefs is too strong for that.”

ACLJ sent a demand letter to the school, which appeared to agree to change the policy prohibiting public prayer. The school instead issued a new policy that remained “blatantly unconstitutional,” according to the legal group.

“Principal Rounds indicated that he was prohibiting them from praying publicly because there was a possibility that students would potentially join in with the prayer,” the lawsuit reads, explaining the situation. “After questions from the teachers, he reiterated that it was considered impermissible for the teachers to pray in public where students might see their conduct or be influenced by it, even if this prayer occurred when the teachers were not on school time.”

“By prohibiting its employees from engaging in any prayer where students might see or from participating in religious activity, Katy ISD violated the ]Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA)]; no compelling interest justifies a prohibition of employee prayer and any interest Katy ISD may have can be achieved without prohibiting teachers from engaging in religious activity,” the suit adds.

The lawsuit seeks to ensure that the “school amends its policy to reflect what the Constitution actually requires,” ACLJ said. “This school policy strips teachers and school employees of their fundamental right to express their faith freely and must be struck down.”

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