Hey, screw the Bill of Rights, and the Arizona Constitution, those silly pieces of paper that demand separation of church and state don't apply to us, we are royal government rulers.
By Cathryn Creno The Republic | azcentral.com Thu Jan 2, 2014 10:14 AM
The Mesa Public Schools governing board may reconsider a November decision to start meetings with a moment of silence instead of a non-denominational prayer.
Board Clerk Mike Hughes said he expects board members to consider reinstating the prayer by inviting a wide range of religious leaders to share their traditions at the start of meetings.
Hughes said he does not envision the board returning to its former tradition of having assistants and associate superintendents take turns saying prayers before meetings.
“We had fallen out of step,” Hughes said.
“We had the same people standing up and saying the same type of prayer over and over. We didn’t have a clear policy about what the prayer is supposed to be.”
Until Nov. 12, Mesa was one of the few districts to still feature a prayer on meeting agendas. The Chandler Unified School District ended the practice last year and opted for a moment of reflection after an Arizona School Boards Association law conference suggested that boards avoid prayers to prevent lawsuits.
At the November meeting, board President Mike Nichols asked those in attendance to observe a moment of silence. Afterward, he said Mesa schools’ legal counsel had advised the board that if it were to be sued over the prayer said at meetings, the district likely would lose in court.
The board had asked its attorney about the prayer because that week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about whether municipal governments violate the Constitution and endorse religion by opening their meetings with prayers.
Many public officials believe a Supreme Court ruling could affect prayer at all levels of government, including school districts.
Although the board held no public discussion about canceling the prayer, members have received 20 e-mails from district residents and others who oppose the move. Some excerpts:
“Please reconsider reinstating prayer before the school board meetings. It is the foundation of any good institution to ask for God’s guidance, wisdom and strength before meetings that will effect the people of the community.” — Julie Wilson
“MPS has always stood for the solid traditional (and, yes, Christian) values that this country was founded on. Unfortunately, the culture that has defined America’s greatness is eroding into political correctness. Please summon up the courage to stand firm. The district needs prayer now more than ever.” — Harry Scott
“I’ve been a taxpayer for over 40 years and it is appalling to see intelligent people deem themselves smarter than God ...” — Moneta Murdock
“This is not San Francisco or New York or Caracas ... Here we still believe in and, in fact, revere the U.S. Constitution, especially the First Amendment. The only reason I can think of why you are doing so is fear of a lawsuit from the ACLU or its allies. What do you think our Founding Fathers would say about that kind of cowering fear?” — Frank Kessler
“If Mesa effectively abandons ‘In God We Trust,’ then when do they cease the Pledge of Allegiance by our students? Enough is enough.” — Dick Meyer
Neither district spokeswoman Helen Hollands nor board secretary Alice Swinehart had received comments in support of the moment of silence before district offices closed for winter break on Dec. 23.
Hughes said the decision to consider reinstating the prayer has nothing to do with letters he and other board members have received — and it does not have anything to do with their personal beliefs, either.
“We need to make sure we are in compliance” with the law, he said.