BUCHANAN COUNTY, VA (WVNS)– The Buchanan County School Board recently received a legal caution letter regarding prayer prior to meetings.
A Wisconsin-based organization, Freedom From Religious Foundation (FRFF), learned a routine prayer said at the opening of Buchanan’s School Board meeting was unconstitutional. A community member shared a video of the prayer from the official school board meeting stream to FFRF and a letter was sent on Tuesday, August 10, 2021.
The letter stated it is beyond the scope of a public school board to schedule or conduct prayer as a part of its meetings and violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism,” stated in the letter.
Two other incidents occurred with the Bland County Sheriff’s Office and Tazewell County Public Schools. Legal caution letters were sent to Bland County Sheriff Jason Ramsey on April 9, 2021, and Tazewell County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Christopher Stacy, on June 11, 2021.
At Graham High School, a community member sent a photo of a soccer coach who participated in a prayer before a game.
Chris Line, who is a staff attorney with the FFRF, said coaches cannot lead or participate in prayer. He said it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it constitutes a government advancement and endorsement of religion.
Tazewell County Public Schools Director of Public Relations, Lindsey Mullins, did not provide a comment, citing “personnel matters.”
Another local resident sent FFRF screenshots of the Bland County Sheriff’s Facebook page regarding posts including bible verses, messages, and prayer requests.
The letter stated these posts promote Christianity.
“Government employees can worship, pray, or quote any religious text they wish when acting in their personal capabilities. But they are not permitted to provide prestige to their personal religion through the machinery of a government office,” stated the letter.
Line said these letters ask the respective parties to stop the violation of amendment rights. He also stated if it continues, they will explore other legal options.
“Separation of church and state…it’s what makes our country great,” said Line.