JONESBORO, Ark. — A prayer thanking God for life’s blessings was recently removed from an Arkansas elementary school’s Thanksgiving program after one of the nation’s most conspicuous atheist activists groups lodged a complaint.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the superintendent of the Westside Consolidated School District on Nov. 10 after being informed by a parent that students at Westside Elementary School were sent home with lyrics to memorize for the program, which included a prayer of thanks to God.
“Thank You for the world so sweet/Thank You for the food we eat/Thank You for the birds that sing/Thank You, God, for everything,” the poem was to have read. FFRF contended that the prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
“[P]ublic schools have an obligation to remain neutral toward religion,” the letter read. “Moreover, inducing young and impressionable children to give thanks to God is a usurpation of parental authority.”
“Such a practice alienates the students, teachers and members of the community whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school, particularly the 24% of all Americans, and 38% of Americans born after 1987, who are not religious,” FFRF asserted.
The group therefore requested that “all references to God or religion” be removed from the Thanksgiving program, and asked for a written response advising how the district would take steps to do so.
According to FFRF, Superintendent Scott Gauntt conducted an investigation into the matter and after confirming the inclusion of the prayer of thanks in the program, had it nixed from the event.
“We will be more diligent in the future in an attempt to uphold the letter of the law in regards to separation of church and state,” Gauntt wrote.
FRRF has applauded the move removing God from the Thanksgiving program, calling it a “sincere action to uphold its constitutional obligation to protect the students’ rights of conscience.”
As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”