A high school in Eastern Kentucky is removing a tradition allowing students to submit anonymous prayer requests so someone can pray for them.
Now, Pike Central High School students have to find a new way to pray after receiving a complaint letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, WYMT reported.
While the prayer locker has student support, the organization said it’s a “clear violation of the separation of church and state,” alleging it was put up by school officials—but it was done by a student.
“Students in student clubs have the right to meet and engage in religious activities in their own time,” Ian Smith, Attorney for AUSCS, said. “What they don’t have the right to do is sort of use the school to push that on other students.”
Pike County Schools Superintendent Reed Adkins requested that every school remove its prayer locker. Writing in the letter, “Erecting a “Prayer Locker” is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.”
But Hiram Sasser, general counsel for First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm, said the school is in trouble for kowtowing to the D.C. organization, according to Fox News.
“It appears this would be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and blatant viewpoint discrimination to ban students from a clear opportunity to share their faith,” Sasser said.
The requests were constantly coming in through the locker because it allowed students to anonymously ask for prayers without an awkward conversation, Emily Chaney, a sophomore at East Ridge High School who organized the prayer locker, said.
“I just really hope that they realize that this was a huge blessing and it was so beneficial to a lot of people,” she shared.
“I mean, we weren’t forcing anybody to put a prayer in that locker,” sophomore Zack Mason, who intends to help Emily, said. “I just don’t see how anybody could see anything wrong with this. It’s just a wonderful person, doing something wonderful. And it’s just somebody taking a blessing away.”
The district fully supports the students’ right to free religion. He said the district is simply following the law, just like it was when it complied with the state requirement of displaying “In God We Trust” in its schools, Adkins said.