Elizabethton City Schools responds after complaint about ‘school-sponsored prayer’

ELIZABETHTON, TN (WJHL)- A local school district is responding after a complaint about a school-sponsored prayer was brought to their attention.

Elizabethton City Schools received that complaint from a national organization called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or FFRF.

According to the FFRF’s website their purpose is to protect the separation of church and state, and educate the public on matters about non theism.

Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour said the complaint originated after a school function back in August.

The FFRF’s news release, dated December 1, said that function was an open house held at East Side Elementary School.

Dr. Gardenhour said there were parents at the event who believed there was a school-sponsored prayer.

In an e-mail statement to News Channel 11 Wednesday, Elizabethton City Schools Director Dr. Corey Gardenhour said the following:

“Elizabethton City Schools strives to balance the constitutional requirements of free exercise and non-establishment of religion in its schools. The district recently investigated a complaint received by the district on November 24 made by parents to the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The complainants attended a school function on August 22nd where they believed that there was a school-sponsored prayer. The event program stated there would be a moment of silence, but the student recited a prayer, giving the appearance that the school instructed the student to pray. Although the student was not selected specifically to pray, she chose to do so. As a result of the complaint, the district has committed to the FFRF that additional counseling and training regarding legal requirements governing religion in schools will be provided to district staff.”

Just last year in January, the FFRF wrote a letter to another local school district with a different complaint.

The foundation e-mailed the Unicoi County Board of Education, asking them to remove the Christian flag from their meeting room.

The board ended up voting to do so, and donating the flag to the Unicoi County Ministerial Association.

In the recent news release by the FFRF, they also asked that prayer be discontinued at all future school-sponsored events.

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