A school superintendent in Ohio has halted an email prayer chain that was implemented by teachers and a middle school principal after concluding that it could be a violation of the separation of church and state.
Dave Knight, superintendent of the Medina City School District, said that the chain, which was intended to support staff members facing hardships like death and illness, simply wasn't permissible if it relied on district equipment or was sent during school hours, according to the Plain Dealer.
"Public school staff can't use district resources, including email, to promote prayer, especially when the principal, a person in a position of influence, is involved," he said, according to the outlet. "When it comes to separation of church and state, it's very clear."
Photo credit: Shutterstock
At the heart of the matter was the fact that the email chain was organized, in part, by a school principal, which Knight said could have led some teachers to feel as though they were being compelled to pray.
A weekly newsletter sent to staff September 8 said that those interested in joining the chain could email A.I. Root Middle School principal Chad Wise.
A few teachers apparently complained to their union after the prayer invite was sent, leading Knight to take action last week.
Wise expressed regret over the fact that people felt uncomfortable and agreed to move the communications to a platform not managed by the district.
"Our intention was never to offend anyone on the staff. That’s the last thing, certainly, that we would want to do," Wise said, according to WJW-TV. "But we wanted to provide that opportunity for staff members who wanted to support one another."
Knight, who said he believes in prayer, insisted that he must abide by the law.
"I personally believe in the power of prayer, but that happens on my own time with my own resources," Knight told the Medina Gazette. "You just can’t do it on school time with a school computer with a school email."
Wise and others involved were not disciplined, as Knight said that he doesn't believe there was an intentional attempt to violate the separation of church and state, though he did meet with the head of the local union and Wise to come to a resolution.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com