Photo: dcJohn (Flickr)
Vigo County teachers can no longer lead prayers at school-sponsored events. The superintendent is giving the order after a secular organization warned the district that doing so was illegal.
The national group the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent the Vigo County School Corporation a letter saying it received a complaint after a teacher at Sarah Scott Middle School led a prayer at a school banquet.
Foundation attorney Sam Grover says previous court decisions indicate teachers cannot lead prayers if they are acting in an official capacity for the school district.
“Fortunately our constitution is a document that’s not based on majority rule. It’s a document that protects the rights of minorities,” Grover says. “In an overtly religious community, it can often be quite difficult for a religious or non-religious minority to get a fair shake in what should be a religious-free zone.”
Vigo County Superintendent Danny Tanoos sent the letter to his attorneys who told him he should halt the practice of allowing teachers to lead prayer.
“Now we have to live within the law, which I’ve understood but never thought someone would complain about, a teacher leading a prayer,” Tanoos says.
Tanoos says the school district has a strong relationship with the faith community and while the people he’s spoken with are shocked that a complaint was filed, he does not expect it to create any kind of rift in the community.
Tanoos says he will still allow students to lead prayers at school events.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it receives about 1,000 complaints per year about teachers leading prayers at school events.