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Vigo County Teachers Must Stop Leading Prayers

The Vigo County superintendent is telling teachers they should stop leading prayers at school-sponsored events after a complaint was filed.

student desks

Photo: dcJohn (Flickr)

Teachers in Vigo County have been allowed to pray at school-sponsored events, which the Freedom From Religion Foundation says violates the constitution.

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.

Freedom From Religion Complaint Letter

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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  • ed-words

    Supt. Tanoos should be surprised at a complaint.

    But if it were a Muslim prayer . . .

  • Guzzman

    Public school teachers are government employees, and government employees are constrained by the U.S. Constitution from promoting, endorsing, or advancing religion. This has been settled law for many decades now. Why was this a surprise to this school district?

  • Jay

    Caught red-handed religiously indoctrinating children. And the superintendent doesn’t see what the big deal is? As another commenter said, what if it had been a muslim prayer that the students were expected to participate in, would he have taken it so lightly? No. So schools, just stop it. You don’t get to inculcate or indoctrinate your religious values into someone elses’ children.

  • godlessveteran

    Tanoos doesn’t understand why someone would object to an illegal act? Someone so simpleminded should not be in charge of educating children.

  • tatoo

    This superintendent is obviously out-of-touch. He should be gently relieved of his duties.

  • Mario Strada

    “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.

    I’ll bet that if I were elected or appointed to his office after his term is up and I took it upon myself to lead students in an invocation along the lines of “God doesn’t exist” or if I distributed prayer mats and had all the students genuflect and face Mecca on them, he would understand the implications lickety-split.

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