Over the summer, a mother in Concord, New Hampshire, was banned from praying out loud on a high school campus -- something she had done throughout the previous winter and spring semester.
Now, Lizarda Urena is back at Concord High School, but praying silently for 10 to 15 minutes each morning after signing in as a visitor, according to the Concord Monitor.
“I’m so happy that I’m back, and I feel like I’m welcomed by the school,” Urena told the Monitor Tuesday, noting she is praying "very silently."
Lizarda Urena is praying at the high school again -- silently -- but officials said they still have not decided if they will officially allow even silent prayer if that is visitors' sole purpose for coming to campus. For now, they are allowing it and monitoring the situation. (Image via WFXT-TV video screenshot)
Former state representative David Bates joined Urena Tuesday in silent prayer, as he had defended her right to pray on the campus when it raised a point of contention before.
Urena began praying in February 2013 after bullets were found in a toilet at school. She had been praying for the safety of students, two of whom are her own children, since then. Before being told by school officials she could come on campus but must keep her religious words to herself, Urena used to read Bible verses where students coming to school could hear them, but she did not speak with students directly.
TheBlaze in July documented both perspectives, for and against, Urena's campus prayers:
The (Freedom From Religion Foundation) was particularly frustrated that the school did not crack down on the speech in the first place. After receiving word from officials that there never was permission for the mother — at least a documented allowance — to be speaking on campus in such a manner, the group successfully argued that the Concord School District should make moves to prevent her sermons.
The Alliance for Defending Freedom, a conservative group, defended Urena’s prayer atop the school stairs.
“Students and community members that are allowed to come on campus and participate in a neutral thing are allowed to express religious viewpoints,” the group’s general counsel Matthew Sharp told the Union Leader. “The students know it’s the mother and her own speech — something that the First Amendment protects — and that it is not the school mandating this woman to do it.”
But other groups like the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union agree with the district’s stance on the matter. Since students are forced to enter the school and, thus, listen to Urena’s speech, the debate is a fascinating one.
Watch WFXT-TV's report with some of the recent opinions on the silent, but still public, prayer going on at the high school:
Superintendent Chris Rath told the Concord Monitor the school has not officially decided if they will continue to allow Urena to pray on campus -- even silently. For the time being, administrators are monitoring the situation to make sure her actions don't violate visitor or religious policies.
“We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,” Rath told the newspaper.