CONCORD, N.H. – Public schools belong to citizens, and all citizens with peaceful intent should be allowed access to school property.
Lizarda Urena, a New Hampshire mother, clearly had peaceful intent every morning when she climbed the steps of Concord High School and recited prayers and Bible verses for about 15 minutes.
She had been doing so with the permission of the building principal since the day that two bullets were discovered in a school restroom, according to DailyCaller.com.
There is no indication that anybody in the community openly objected to Urena’s prayers. A lot of residents probably respected her desire to pray for the students and staff, and privately hoped that her prayers would be answered, particularly in the wake of last year’s school shooting tragedy in nearby Connecticut.
But Urena will not be welcomed back to campus this fall, due to the ugly objections of the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Rebecca Markert, a FFRF staff attorney, reportedly sent a letter to the Concord school district, asking for copies of “any meeting minutes or any documents which gave this woman permission to pray on school property,” the news report said.
The school district replied that there were no records of such a decision, because no decision was ever made beyond the principal’s office. Then district officials took the cowardly route and announced that the prayers would stop.
“To be fair to all the kids in the school, it is probably best for the principal to say that she shouldn’t be speaking out like this and proselytizing on school grounds,” Kassandra Ardinger, president of the school board, was quoted as saying. “The best mode of action was to tell her to cool it.”
The constitutional principle of separation of church and state prohibits government (represented in this case by the government school district) from establishing an official religion. Nobody can claim that Concord High School was trying to do that.
The U.S. Constitution also bans the government from impeding any citizen’s right to practice their religion of choice.
That’s all Urena was doing on the school steps. Her actions were no different than those of countless missionaries around the nation who walk around college campuses preaching the gospel and handing out Christian literature.
We hope Urena files a lawsuit and we hope she wins. As a citizen, she has the same right to access school property as anyone else.
And she has the right to exercise her religious freedom on school grounds, the same way teachers unions have a right to protest against school boards on school grounds, or student atheist groups have a right to meet and discuss their beliefs on school grounds.
This property belongs to everyone. Reasonable use should not be denied to anyone.
Urena wasn’t bothering anybody. She had the principal’s permission. And for all we know, God may have honored her dutiful ritual by keeping a protective eye on the students and staff at Concord High School.
The folks at FFRF may choose to be atheists – that’s certainly their right. But they have no legal grounds to trample on the rights of those who do believe, and want to use public property to pray to their God.