Education

‘Prayer locker’ in KY school drew complaints. School attorney recommending removal.

A national organization that advocates for the separation of church and state is demanding that Pike Central High School stop allowing students to fill a school locker with prayer requests so that other students might pray for them.

Pike Superintendent Reed Adkins told the Herald-Leader Saturday that in addition to a letter from the Washington D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, he had also received a telephone call from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability saying staff had received a complaint about the ‘prayer locker’. In the initiative, students slipped a piece of paper with a prayer request into the locker so that other students could pray for them.

In a Sept. 17 letter obtained by WYMT-TV, Ian Smith, an attorney for the Americans United group, told Adkins and the principal at the high school that the prayer locker display was unconstitutional and “a clear violation of the separation of church and state.”

Smith said in the letter his group had received a complaint about the prayer locker.

Adkins said that he personally believes in prayer and that his sons attend Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings before school on Thursday mornings at Pike County Central High. He said he supports students’ religious beliefs and is not trying to impede their rights.

He said Pike County was one of the first school districts in the state to comply with the new Kentucky law requiring school districts to prominently display the national motto, “In God We Trust” in each school building.

But Adkins said that as Pike County Schools superintendent, he will follow state and federal law, and he has asked principals to also follow the law.

Pike County school board attorney Neal Smith told the Herald-Leader Saturday that it’s his recommendation that district principals stop the prayer lockers in their schools.

Neal Smith said having the Fellowship of Christian Athletes student group meet before or after school is “perfectly OK.” But the school board attorney said that having a prayer locker in the hallway of a school during school hours and encouraging students during school hours to drop prayer requests into the locker, is “likely a violation of the first amendment.”

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