Mississippi School District Fined $7,500 For Allowing Prayer, Bibles In Schools

Jennifer Deutschmann

A Mississippi school district was fined $7,500 for "proselytizing Christianity." As stated in the lawsuit, the Rankin County School District is accused of allowing prayer during a school-sponsored event and allowing Gideons International to distribute Bibles to students.

The assembly in question was held at Brandon High School in April, 2014. Although it was not mandatory, it was open to any Rankin County School District student who received an ACT score higher than 22.

As reported by Christian Post, the school district invited a local pastor to open the assembly with a prayer.

The lawsuit was initiated by the American Humanist Association on behalf of a Northwest Rankin High School student who was a guest at a Brandon High School assembly.

As discussed in the lawsuit, the Mississippi school district is accused of violating their own religion policy, which prohibits religious activity during school-sponsored events.

"... school activities conducted during instructional hours should neither advance, endorse or inhibit any religion; should be primarily for secular purposes and should not obligate or coerce any person into participation in a religious activity."

In 2013, the district was accused of violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The accusation stemmed from an assembly -- which encouraged students to find "Hope in Jesus Christ."

As a result of the lawsuit, the Mississippi school district agreed to adopt a Religion in Public Schools policy. Six months later, they were accused of violating the newly-adopted policy.

As reported by NE News Now, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves determined the school district "deliberately went out of its way to entangle Christian indoctrination in the education process."

As they were found in violation of the policy and the consent decree, the Mississippi school district was fined a total of $7,500.

The fine, which will be paid to the unnamed high school student, includes "$2,500 for having to listen to the invocation" and "$5,000 because... the school district allowed Gideons International to hand out Bibles to fifth graders... in October 2014."

In addition to the fine, the Mississippi school district was ordered to pay the student's legal fees. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves also threatened the district with a $10,000 fine for future violations of the religion policy or the consent decree.

Although the Mississippi school district was fined, and threatened with future fines, Superintendent Lynn Weathersby said "as there is testing in schools, [she] believe[s] that teachers, principals and students will continue to pray."

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