Community reacts to school board's prayer decision

Tuesday, January 8, 2013
East Poinsett County school board decided to stop prayer over loudspeaker before games due to a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. (DT Photo/Belina Santos)

During the month of December, EPC school board responded to a Freedom From Religion complaint and stated they will no longer conduct prayers over loudspeaker before football games. This response has caused an uproar within the Lepanto community.

The issue began when EPC Superintendent Micky Pierce received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking that the school stop prayer over the loudspeaker before games.

According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's website, their purpose is to promote constitutional principle of separation of church and state and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. After the letter, Pierce spoke with Kristine Gould, a member of the Arkansas School Board Association, who recommended not performing the prayer over loudspeaker. The superintendent sent a letter back to FFRF indicating the school would stop the prayer over loudspeaker.

"The majority of the town was more in favor of the prayer before games," said Lepanto Mayor Steve Jernigan. "I don't understand the people complaining."

The issue was brought to FFRF's attention by one person at EPC. At the school board meeting, Superintendent Pierce said the person represented a group of people at EPC who felt public prayer before ball games was inappropriate.

A citizen of Lepanto, who did not wish to be identified, stated a small group of people should not be able to take the prayer out so easily. "We are a Christian nation despite how others may feel," said the citizen.

According to several former students, EPC has conducted the prayer over load speaker for many years. "It's been going on since I could remember, and I've been out of school for a while," said Patrick Nelson, a former student. "I really think it's wrong (that prayer before games is no longer allowed)." Nelson said he had heard a lot about the issue throughout the town.

Wesley Owens, a nonreligious citizen and former student of EPC, said he felt the school was being robbed of their rights, as well. "I think they should be at liberty to do whatever they want," said Owens. "It never bothered me to hear it. It's not like they were forcing us to do anything."

Many parents of the students at EPC do not agree with the decision. "It's really a shame they stopped," said Mary Cruz, mother of two EPC students. "I think we should keep God in our schools and our everyday lives."

Daniel Nooner, pastor of Revival Center Church in Lepanto, said he has really voiced his opinion on the subject. "I have spoken to representatives in Washington, but they are really not much help," said Nooner. "Until someone lets their voice be heard, they will not be able to do anything."

Nooner is working on his voice being heard not only for the prayer before games, but prayer within the schools. "Marijuana is being heard and voted about, there is no reason why prayer can't be heard," said Nooner. He stressed that prisons can hire chaplains, yet prayer and religion are banned from entering the school atmosphere.

The pastor, also, said the student body is deeply upset by the decision to stop the prayer over loud speaker. Several other pastors in the area disagree with it, as well. "As Christians, one by one everything is being stripped away," said Nooner.

Mayor Jernigan compared the issue between those in favor of and those opposed to the prayer over loudspeaker to a pendulum. "A pendulum always swings back and forth," said Jernigan. "It will swing our way eventually."

With the complaint from the FFRF, EPC school district really had no choice but to stop the prayer. EPC school board members did decide to replace the prayer over loudspeaker with a moment of silence. Some citizens have suggested that no one can really object if a student stands and prays aloud during the moment, for they are protected by the first amendment.

View 5 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • The school board is chicken,no backbone.

    -- Posted by larryrckmn on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 7:46 AM
  • The subject of prayer in schools, or any of the other subjects covered in the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, is not up for change by vote or to public opinion or majority rule. That is precisely the point and the beauty of the Bill of Rights. They are for the protection of the individual against the majority. These protections cover religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, and creed.

    -- Posted by DonJones on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 12:14 PM
  • This story is speaking of course, of the First Amendment's Exclusionary Clause concerning religion not being allowed to seep into government, the public school system. Everyone knows something of the wording "...freedom of speech, freedom of religion," etc. but most fail to realize that usually, and by far, it is a case of religion being the aggressor into government, not the other way around.

    -- Posted by DonJones on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 12:22 PM
  • Thank Goodness for organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Humanists. If not for their diligence, we very well could wind up a state of one religion rule, like Iran.

    -- Posted by DonJones on Wed, Jan 9, 2013, at 12:25 PM
  • You are most likely an obama supporter,thats ok.

    4 years from now I'll ask again.

    -- Posted by larryrckmn on Thu, Jan 10, 2013, at 7:55 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: