Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Principal Criticized for Memo on Prayer; Secularists 'Horrified' by 'First Amendment Was for Christianity' Quote

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Principal Criticized for Memo on Prayer; Secularists 'Horrified' by 'First Amendment Was for Christianity' Quote

Article excerpt

Byline: Topher Sanders

A Clay County principal's memo that promoted a prayer session and stated that the First Amendment applies only to Christians has raised the ire of a national secular rights group.

Clay Hill Elementary Principal Larry Davis sent the memo to his 40-member staff last month to let them know about a weekly prayer session that is held near the school's flagpole and led by a local pastor.

In the memo, Davis quoted from an article by Pastor Steven Andrew, which was published on the website USA Christian Ministries.

"Pastor Steven Andrew states: 'Our children need God back in schools,' and he is calling Christians nationwide to bring back the Holy Bible and Christian prayer to schools," the memo said. "The First Amendment was for Christianity, not other religions."

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a secular rights group, sent a letter to the school district asking for the prayer sessions to be stopped. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group's co-president, said she was "horrified" by the language in Davis' memo.

"That would be like saying the constitution only applies to white people," Gaylor said.

Despite quoting the article from the Christian Ministries website, Davis told the Times-Union he didn't believe the First Amendment applied only to Christians.

Davis also said he didn't see why a non-Christian would have a problem with the memorandum's language.

"This is his opinion and what he says," Davis said about Andrew's article. "To me it just looked like it all went together with the morals. I don't think it was a stretch at all for him to make those comments or for me to share them."

When asked what he thought the memo might say to the non-Christian parents and students in his school district, Superintendent Ben Wortham said he had "no comment."

Wortham would also not comment on any disciplinary measures Davis might face because of the memo, saying it is a personnel issue.

Pastor Ron Baker of Russell Baptist Church in Green Cove Springs, who conducts the prayer sessions at Clay Hill and three other Clay County schools, said he doesn't agree with the quoted passage Davis included in the memo. …

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