ATLANTA – Earlier in the summer, Athens Prayer Network contacted Gaines Elementary School principal offering to sponsor a weekend prayer event at the public school. Principal Luther McDaniel responded with a letter of support that became public in a Facebook post on Monday, the first day of school. The principal’s letter invited local pastors to participate in the event.
Using his official capacity as a public school principal to invite Christians to pray on public school property raises serious constitutional concerns. Government resources cannot be used to promote religion, and such actions can unintentionally make students of other faiths or no faith feel unwelcomed.
“In his personal capacity off school property, Dr. Luther McDaniel is, of course, free to invite Christians to pray for his school, and people of all faiths are free to pray for his school,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “There are other ways to invite the community to show their heartfelt good wishes for a successful school year for all of the students, teachers, and staff in the school without promoting one kind of religion.”