President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce new guidance on prayer in public schools Thursday afternoon.
The announcement comes as the White House recognizes National Religious Freedom Day, which Trump said honors the “foundational link between freedom and faith in our country.”
While it is unclear what the guidance might be, White House officials told NPR that there will be no change to existing law or regulations. Trump teased the guidance at a Jan. 3 rally at a Florida megachurch, saying that he and Attorney General Bill Barr are “doing a big action.”
“We will not allow faithful Americans to be bullied by the hard left,” he said, according to Time and Politico.
WHAT’S ALLOWED NOW?
Students are allowed to pray on their own, but the Supreme Court has ruled that public schools cannot initiate prayer or promote religious events or symbols.
In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against a Louisiana school district saying the district broadcast Christian prayers over the PA system every morning and included religious messages and prayer in other events, including pep rallies and graduation ceremonies.
A federal judge ordered the school district to end the practice by consent decree in 2018.
Another lawsuit filed in November by atheist students and their families claims school staff in Tennessee have made prayer a part of school assemblies and athletic events. The lawsuit said Bible verses are displayed in the school, and a Christian association has visited to distribute Bibles during class.
One student plaintiff told the ACLU the situation is “very awkward and uncomfortable.”
“I respect other people’s religion, and I would like it if everyone else would respect my beliefs,” the student said.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair, founder of the American Atheists organization, filed a lawsuit in 1960 over the Baltimore public school system forcing her son to recite prayers and read from the Bible, which eventually lead to the Supreme Court decision. Nick Fish, the organization’s current president, told McClatchy News there is nothing Trump can do to change that fact.
“The only thing President Trump and his sycophants care about is reinforcing Christian supremacy,” Fish said. “They have shown time and time again that they don’t care at all about equality under the law.”
Trump’s announcement comes a little less than a month after an editorial in the publication Christianity Today called for Trump’s removal from office. According to the editorial, the issue over whether the president should be removed is “not a matter or partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”
“None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character,” the editorial said.
Trump responded via Twitter, saying the magazine would “rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever” than him as president.
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