Prayer in Lenoir City Schools causing controversy

Prayer in Lenoir City Schools causing controversy

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By SAMANTHA SARACINO
6 News Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - Lenoir City Schools is the latest system feeling pressure to change its policies regarding prayer and religion.

Earlier in March, an atheist student complained that teachers were promoting religious ideals. School officials decided not to publish her editorial in a school newspaper.

That's what seems to have spurred all the controversy. Once national organizations got wind of what was happening with the student and the article, the complaints started coming in.

Specifically prayer is up in the air when it comes to school board meetings and football games. Three national organizations have written complaint letters to the school board, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation based out of Wisconsin, about prayer being used at the schools.

"We haven't cut anything yet. We're waiting on a response from our attorney, Chuck Cagle, to find out what our options are at this time," said Superintendent Wayne Miller.

Cagle said he should have a response by the end of the week. He couldn't disclose what his stance will be on the issue.

We heard disappointment from one parent about the possibility of cutting prayer. "It just saddens me that we're becoming like other areas of the country. As a Christian, I value the opportunity to pray in public and that my children have that opportunity at the high school as well," said Tonya Freels, mother to a Lenoir City High School student.

Local churches are also concerned.

"We have a good community. No one is forcing their religious beliefs on anyone, even with a simple prayer at a board meeting. We're discouraged by that right now," said Dr. Chris Harding, with First Baptist Church in Lenoir City.

Dr. Harding says churches don't want to start a commotion about the issue. They simply want people's religious rights to be left alone.

"Our country enjoys religious freedom and religious liberty, freedom of speech. It shouldn't be someone from an outside community, someone from Wisconsin, coming into Tennessee and the Lenoir City area saying we can't have a simple prayer as part of our meeting," Harding explained.

While prayer hasn't officially been cut in Lenoir City Schools, the superintendent said they did not pray at their last board meeting. 

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