A well-known atheist lobby group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), has convinced a Michigan high school to prohibit the prayerful activities of those supporting the sick child of a local football coach.
When the four-year-old daughter of the Lake City High School football coach Kyle Smith became unwell with an acute intestinal infection, members of the school community rallied together to pray for the young girl as she was treated in hospital. But FFRF immediately took issue with the religious activity. Due to the prayer taking place on the school’s football field, FFRF argued that it was fundamentally unconstitutional.
In a video posted on social media, a large group of students and parents could be seen holding hands and praying for the young girl, Harper.
“The school district can get involved in a number of ways but if it involves sponsoring religion they can’t be involved,” said Freedom From Religion Foundation Legal Fellow, Colin McNamara, as reported by UpNorthLive.
“The first amendment establishment clause forbids government actors from endorsing religion,” McNamara added. “They’re required to be neutral with respect to religion. They cannot endorse or promote it in any way.”
The event reportedly involved prayer being conducted over a loudspeaker.
You are so loved, @KSmits515 We’re here for your family. We’re praying. We’re rooting for our sweet girl #HarperStrong #FamilyOn3 #FootballisFamily Thank you for letting me be part of this, @LCTROJANFOOTBALpic.twitter.com/y87YPRAetz
— Megan Viecelli (@MeganV910) August 6, 2018
This frustrated many in the local community, who were simply seeing to offer hope and healing to Harper and her family. “Outside factors should stay out of our community,” said local businessman Burce DeBoer. “At that point in time, this was to help a young girl everyone supported it.”
— Kyle A Smith (@KSmits515) July 28, 2018
The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists also weighed in on the situation, according to 9 &10 News.
“The bottom line is it’s the property of the school and the school has a responsibility to treat it just like any other school property, and that means it has to remain free of religion,” said co-founder Mitch Kahle.
Lake City Schools removed a video from their social media pages to avoid a lawsuit.
— 9 & 10 News (@9and10News) September 17, 2018
Eventually, the school decided to remove a video of the prayer session which was posted on Facebook.
“Since our attorneys have advised us that in this situation we may not act on the basis of our personal preferences, we reluctantly opted to remove the posting,” the school reluctantly announced.
— Sandra Gaiser (@lhcca) September 20, 2018
“I’m a little disappointed,” said Lake City community member, Jennifer Smith. “But I understand they didn’t want to go through the entire litigation process, and possibly pay some heavy duty fines so I understand why they chose to do it.”
However, the case has brought substantial media attention and thus has encouraged thousands to pray for Harper through the #HarperStrong movement.
“As you go down the roads you see many #harperstrong,” said local resident Elizabeth Kramer, adding that the controversy is “only going to make us move forward and work harder for the support the family deserves.”
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