Students near and around Hollister, Missouri, are rallying together after an atheist organization sent a demand letter to district officials, complaining over a video that featured a Christian minister praying with pupils during a lunch period at a local middle school.
Social media has apparently been lighting up with pictures of young people praying in solidarity, using the hashtag #praywithhollister to push back against the Freedom From Religion Foundation's complaints.
The atheist organization posted a statement last month claiming that it had "learned that youth ministers have been allowed admittance to several public schools in the Branson area."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also posted a video claiming to show a local pastor and leader of the KLIFE Christian organization leading prayer during a lunch period at Hollister Middle School.
Watch that video below:
The group has since asked that officials "immediately stop KLIFE representatives from visiting district schools" and "halt organized prayer during the lunch period," calling these paradigms unconstitutional.
"It is well settled as a matter of established law that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion," Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Patrick Elliott said in a letter. "It is unconstitutional for a public school to allow an evangelical Christian organization to impose prayer on all students. Giving the group access to all students as part of school programming suggests that the school district has preference not only for religion over nonreligion, but also evangelical Christianity over other faiths."
But students in the area are standing up and pushing back, with pictures of student-led prayers accompanied by the hashtag #praywithHollister peppering social media, KOLR-TV reported.
While Hollister Superintendent Brian Wilson reportedly told the outlet that the minister went "beyond school policy," he said that he doesn't believe that such an issue will unfold again in the future.
For now, the district will continue to permit an open lunch period that allows members of the community — including ministers — to come in.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is currently considering its legal options.
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