MORA, N.M. – A New Mexico superintendent denies allegations she forced a student to stop her silent prayer before lunch recently, after the student’s father took issue with the religious censorship.
“(She) came home from school and said, ‘Dad I have something to tell you. Today for lunch right before I was going to eat, I bowed by head to pray, and the superintendent came up to me and said I couldn’t do that,’” Patrick Ashe, the student’s father and a practicing Catholic, told KOAT.com.
“I asked her if she was praying out loud and she said, ‘No, I was praying to myself and wasn’t even speaking,” he said.
The television station contacted Mora Independent School District about the incident, and superintendent Dora Romero “told us over the phone she didn’t tell anyone not to pray, but is investigating the incident,” the news site reports.
The exchange took place at Mora High School over a week ago, and there’s reportedly no evidence of the incident. KOAT points out that state law protects a student’s religious freedoms, and cannot prevent students from exercising their faith.
“It’s just very important to me to thank God for putting food on our table and for leading you through life,” Ashe told the news site.
“I just ask she could pray before a meal, before a test, or if she’s struggling with anything at school,” he said. “I just want her to be able to pray at her own will.”
Whether or not the superintendent actually prevented the student from praying before lunch is one thing, but her involvement in an investigation into her alleged conduct is another.
If the superintendent is the subject of the investigation, why would she be involved in vetting the complaint? It’s an obvious conflict of interest.
That issue aside, those who read the story online were clearly upset over the incident.
“As a former Mora High School student I find this surprising, I feel like 90 percent of the school district is Catholic,” Miguel Olivas posted to KOAT.com. “While at Mora High I prayed before almost every meal and was never told anything.Sometimes even the sisters from our church would drop by and mingle with students for lunch. This community is extremely religious and anyone who prevents kids from praying should be fired.”
Larry Arthur viewed the incident as a constitutional issue.
“The battle to protect our constitutional rights is getting harder all the time,” Arthur wrote. “I am with this family trying to teach their daughter the religious faith in which they believe and are granted under the constitution.”
“Get rid of that woman!” Audrey McCann Keller wrote.