It was good to hear that the Montrose Area School District, located in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, choose to stop its practice of injecting religion into each school board meeting. The district, which borders the New York state line in eastern Pennsylvania, north of Scranton, had the inappropriate practice of opening every meeting with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, following the Pledge of Allegiance.
Fortunately, a concerned community member alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) about the intrusion of religion into a public school event. FFRF then sent a three-page letter to Superintendent Christopher McComb, alerting the district to the unconstitutionality of beginning official district meetings with prayer, especially when students are present. You can read the full letter at https://ffrf.org/images/MontroseSchoolBoardLETTER.pdf.
As FFRF stated, “More than 60 years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have affirmed that religious ritual and indoctrination are inappropriate and illegal as part of school-sponsored events, FFRF emphasized that it is coercive, embarrassing and intimidating for nonreligious citizens to be required to make a public showing of their nonbelief or else to display deference toward a religious sentiment in which they do not believe, but which their school board members clearly do.” The school district should also be aware of the growing unaffiliated population, which the Pew Religious Landscape survey puts at 22.8% of the U.S. population, as well as 21% in Pennsylvania, being religiously unaffiliated.
After receiving the letter, Superintendent McComb informed FFRF via email that “this practice has ceased and will no longer continue.”
If you become aware of other school districts that have ignored past rulings on this matter, be sure to complain and consider reporting district to one of the national freethought groups or to a local group, such as the Pittsburgh Freethought Coalition at https://pghfreethought.org/.