A Minneapolis school bus driver was removed from his route last week for leading students in prayer while driving, the Star Tribune reported.
“That’s where the Constitution comes in,” George Nathaniel, 54, told the Star Tribune. “You’ve got the freedom to exercise your religious beliefs.”
Why did he do this?
Children need more prayer in their lives, Nathaniel told the Star Tribune. And he is on a mission to try to bring prayer back into schools. For the second time, Nathaniel has lost a job for trying to start that movement.
Although Nathaniel has not officially been fired, he also has not received another route, the report said. Muk Musa, owner of Quality Care Transportation, told the Star Tribune he has not yet had a chance to meet with Nathaniel.
Musa said he took the action after he received complaints from school officials that Nathaniel “was influencing minors to the point where he was forcing them to pray,” according to the report.
Praying, Musa told the Star Tribune, is not a bus driver’s job.
“He’s not going to change.” Musa said. “His main focus is to influence even one person in following what he worships.”
What does the driver say?
Nathaniel admits he wants to convert people to Christianity. But he said he never coerced students into praying, according to the report.
Nathaniel, also a pastor of a Minneapolis congregation, was fired four years ago while working as a bus driver in Burnsville. This time around, he prayed with students attending Nasha Shkola, a Russian language and culture charter school in Brooklyn Park.
Nathaniel began working for Quality Care Transportation in January 2017, according to the report. This winter, he began a daily routine of incorporating prayer into the nearly two-hour bus ride.
“The students would volunteer to lead the prayer,” Nathaniel told the Star Tribune.
Nathanial said he was surprised after hearing that parents complained. He believes the root of the complaint is not about the prayer but because he disciplined misbehaving students by moving them to another area of the bus.
What is the school's background?
The Star Tribune interviewed a parent, Art Loghinov, who said many students Nasha Shkola are both Russian and Christian. Some of their families fled persecution in the former Soviet Union.
Loghinov said he was not concerned to hear the bus driver was praying with students, including his two children.
“As a Christian, of course, I want kids to know more about Jesus, but I don’t want kids or parents to be pushed,” he told the Star Tribune.