(Aug. 17) – Two Florida school administrators face contempt charges and possible prison time for saying a prayer at a school luncheon.
Frank Lay, principal of Pace High School, and Athletic Director Robert Freeman are accused of violating a consent decree banning employees of Santa Rosa County schools from endorsing religion.
They face a non-jury trial September 17 before U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers. The statute under which they are charged carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison, subject to sentencing guidelines.
Attorneys defending Lay and Freeman call it outrageous that the two are being prosecuted for “a simple prayer.” But the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawsuit led to the consent decree, maintains that students have a right to be free from administrators foisting their religious beliefs on them.
Still, an ACLU representative said the organization never suggested that people should go to jail for violating the decree.
The ACLU filed suit last year against the district on behalf of two Pace students who alleged that “school officials regularly promoted religion and led prayers at school events,” according to an ACLU statement.
Both parties approved the consent decree put in place January 9, under which district and school officials are “permanently prohibited from promoting, advancing, endorsing, participating in or causing prayers during or in conjunction with school events,” the ACLU said.
Lay was a party in the initial lawsuit, and his attorney was among those approving the consent decree, according to the organization. In addition, the court required that all district employees receive a copy.
On January 28, “Lay asked Freeman to offer a prayer of blessing during a school-day luncheon for the dedication of a new fieldhouse at Pace High School,” according to court documents. “Freeman complied with the request and offered the prayer at the event. It appears this was a school-sponsored event attended by students, faculty and community members.”
Attorneys from Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group helping defend Lay and Freeman, said in a written statement that attendees included booster club members and other adults who helped the field house project, all “consenting adults.”
In a February 4 letter to district Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick in which Lay acknowledged the incident, he said that although past football booster club members “and other adults associated with the school system” were at the luncheon, culinary class students were in charge of food preparation and serving.
Lay wrote that he asked Freeman to bless the food “for the adults. … I take full responsibility for this action. My actions were overt and not meant to circumvent any court order or constitutional mandate.”
In response, Wyrosdick noted in a letter to Lay that in a meeting, the principal had admitted that “you are, and were at the date of this incident, aware of the court injunction and aware that this type of action is not permissible under the injunction.”It is a sad day in America when school officials are criminally prosecuted for a prayer over a meal,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the law school at Liberty University, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. “It is outrageous and an offense to the First Amendment to punish a school official for a simple prayer.”
Here are six prayers that you can send to a prisoner or someone who’s in prison now can use.
Table of contents
Prayers for their Family
Father, we pray for those who are incarcerated, but we also pray for their families that they would receive the care and attention they need, and have their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs met by other family members, friends, church members, or someone else. Please Lord, allow them to keep their hope alive that a family member behind bars is still not forsaken or forgotten by God if they have trusted in Christ; if not, we pray for them to know Your Son, Jesus Christ. May the families find comfort from others who are in similar situations and that they would be praying for one another. Oh Righteous Father of Mercy, I pray for these men and women who are cut off from their families and who are serving time behind bars. As you know, it is very hard being separated from loved ones. I pray these inmates may be able to see themselves as you see them, and that they are a child of theirs and are co-heirs with Christ, just as much as those who are out in the world. We know, if they never get out, we will all meet together someday at the great wedding feast of the Lamb of God. If they are able to be released, please shield them from the judgment of others because they have already paid their debt to society, and they are now free. They shouldn’t be referred to as a criminal, con, or anything but a child of God…just like we are. Many of these men and women face that double jeopardy every day of their life after prison, so help others see them as forgiven and cleansed, and a child of God, and treated with respect and not treated as if they’re still guilty. I pray this in the name that is above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
Prayer for Peace of Mind
Father God, I pray for those prisoners who are behind bars and that You give those who’ve trusted in You, peace. Please help them to know that You are sovereign over all things and that much good can come from bad (Gen 50:20; John 3:16), and in even these men and women’s darkest hours, You are their true source of light which is found in Jesus Christ. I pray that you give them the peace that Your Word promises for those who believe in Your Son (Rom 5:1) and please help them to know they are no longer condemned (Rom 8:1). With the comfort that You give us, please give to them Lord, so that they might pillow their head tonight in peace, knowing that if you would come tonight, those doors would be open forevermore. I ask this for the glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in Whose name I pray, amen.
Protection from Danger
Father God, truly only You know how these men and women feel at this time. We cannot know exactly what they are living through right now. The world seems to be getting more dangerous every day Lord, and maybe for these men and women who might live with that fear. In Your sovereign providence, it pleased You to call out some of these in their darkest hours, and to become new creations in Christ (2nd Cor 5:17); to a new life in Christ. Help see that they can run to You Father, for You are a Rock and a Shield to those Who trust in You. In Your great wisdom God, You sometimes use hard places to soften hearts, and in such darkness, your grace is more amazing. Not many of us are great in the eyes of the world, but You have no respect for persons. You reach out to those who humble themselves Father, so help them submit to You and be set free from their fear by trusting in You. Please Father, protect them on the inside so that they would be able to study Your Word, be a witness to those still sitting in darkness, and submit to authorities which is submitting to God (Rom 13:1-5). God, You alone know the future of these men and women; help them to rest in Your sovereignty. Help them to know they can trust in You. For those who have not trusted in Your Son and received eternal life, please set divine appointments for those who are Christ’s witnesses inside the prisons, and keep them safe from harm while being His voice. May You receive all the glory for these men and women’s lives that’ve trusted in You, and in the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.
Hope in the Future
Great God in heaven, thank you for those who have received eternal life in Jesus Christ, and for those who have been born again behind prison bars. Please Father, enable them to see hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. Give them a desire to seek Him, and to long for that eternal home when all of the present, evil and suffering will be history (Rev 21:4). Please send them Your Spirit to point them to Your Word of hope in Your Holy Word, the Bible. Apart from You, and Your Word, we could not know You or Your Son, Jesus Christ, so thank You for granting us Your mercy and giving us Your grace, and for those who You have pardoned, even if the state has not, they are seen as having Jesus’ righteousness (2nd Cor 5:21). Help them to see that You have pardoned them, without parole, and loved them unconditionally. Lord God, allow them to fix their eyes on You, and the hope for a future we can’t even imagine, and that hope is found in Christ, in Whose precious name we pray, amen.
Using Bad for Good
Father, we know You can even use evil for good. All we need to do is to look at the cross, so help these men and women who are incarcerated to know that everything in our life, good and bad, is for our ultimate best (Rom 8:28). Sometimes we don’t always understand how bad can be good. Help these prisoners to see that God is not going to give up on them, because Your Word shows that You forgive their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. If these prisoners are able to see that You are still working in their life Lord, they might have hope and know that You have promised to never leave them or forsake them (Deut 31:6; Heb13:5), even when they or we forsake You. Help them to take You at Your Word, and not use their feelings to guide their beliefs. Perhaps You can use others to help them inside the prison Lord, for nothing is too hard for You. Allow them to see the good that can come from where they’re at now, and even if it looks bleak, good will come from it, and in Jesus’ strong name I pray, amen.
For Such a Time and Place
Great God in Heaven, You alone determine the future and know that which is not yet, so help these men and women to see that You have a purpose for where they are now, and know that You can use anyone for Your glory and for Your purposes, including them. We know that You have commissioned us to make disciples of all nations, and that includes those who are incarcerated. Father, may You use these Christians behind bars to bring others into the kingdom by pointing others to Jesus Christ and trusting Him. They realize that You have allowed them to suffer the consequences for their own actions, yet I realize You may use them to reach others behind bars where we cannot, so please Father, make divine appointments for these Christians in prison, and allow them to cross paths with those whose heart You have prepared for the Word, and in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ I pray, amen.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus expects His church to visit those who are in prison. He said, “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:36), and this is how He sees it; “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40), but we can’t forget about these inmates families either. They need ministering too. If we minister to prisoners and their families, we do it for Jesus, but more importantly, what you do for the inmate’s families, you have done to the inmates. Ministering to prisoners is needed, but so is ministering to the families. They too are in a hard place, mentally, emotionally, and probably financially. Plus, they often live under “guilt by association,” unfair as that is, so they need all of the care and compassion they can get.
Something more for you to read: How I Was Set Free in Prison
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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In November, Anglican priest James Linton was arrested outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in San Bernardino, CA, for praying and offering to pray with mothers entering the facility. After being held for six hours, Father Linton was charged with criminal trespassing — although he maintains he was on the public easement — and is now facing up to 90 days in prison and a $400 fine.
Allison Aranda, a lawyer with Life Legal Defense Foundation, is defending Father Linton. Outraged by the arrest and possible sentence, she claims that the pastor was well within his First Amendment rights.
“The arrest of Father Linton is an outrageous violation of his First Amendment rights,” stated Aranda. “Father Linton simply offered assistance and alternatives to its patrons that could save the lives of their precious babies.”
Linton says he was moved to be an outspoken defender of the unborn when David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress’s (CMP) undercover investigation revealed the horrors of Planned Parenthood’s abortion profiteering. His wife was pregnant with the couple’s third child when he came upon the CMP’s video documentation depicting bins of aborted baby body parts. He then decided over remaining a silent objector.
“The combination of seeing abortion victims sorted through for parts and my wife being pregnant destroyed me,” said Linton. “She organized a protest and I’ve been in front of the clinic every Friday since.
Linton’s work has not gone unnoticed by Planned Parenthood higher ups, who built a wall around the facility to presumably protect their profits against threat posed by Linton and other pro-life activists.
“Every Friday, the San Bernardino Planned Parenthood facility performs abortions up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Due in part to Father Linton’s faithful presence and success at saving babies, the abortion facility recently built a wall in an attempt to hinder sidewalk counselors and prevent them from speaking to mothers and fathers in the parking lot,” reports LifeNews.
As noted by Aranda, Linton and other pro-life activists are not violating the law by praying outside abortion facilities. “In fact, the code section under which Father Linton was charged specifically exempts from criminal liability those who are engaging in activities protected by the California and United States Constitutions,” posited Aranda.
“Life Legal will vigorously defend Father Linton from these false charges and we will fight to preserve and protect the rights of all sidewalk advocates to share life saving information with mothers entering abortion facilities,” notes LifeNews.