BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Praying for better grades.  That’s what happened inside a Baltimore City school and now legal experts say it violated the separation of church and state.

Adam May reports on the controversy.

Dozens of students and parents gathered inside Tench Tilghman Elementary and Middle School last week for a Saturday prayer service aimed at motivating students to do well on state testing.

It’s supported by many in the community.

“Everybody needs some prayer in school,” said one.

At the direction of principal Jael Yon, a flier was handed out to hundreds of students with images of prayer with numerous verses from the Bible.

“[The law is] crystal clear,” said David Rocah, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rocah cites Supreme Court decisions from the 1960s, which prohibit state-sponsored prayer in school.

“Not only are they unconstitutional for very good reasons, but they are divisive.  They send a message of exclusion to people who are not of the particular faith or of any faith at all,” Rocah said.

School officials say they understand prayer plays an important role as a source of motivation and support, but it’s clear that it is not appropriate to promote any particular religious practice. 

The principal would not comment, but some parents defend her.

“Prayer’s good.  I don’t see a problem with it,” a parent said.

Others say it’s a distraction.

“Is that gonna make a difference with the education?  That’s what we’re here for, taking our kids to school for,” one said.

City school officials are reviewing the details surrounding the prayer event.  They say they plan to use the finding to clarify school policy.

Our media partner, the Baltimore Sun, reports a similar event was held at the same school last year, as well.

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Comments (785)
  1. Doug says:

    Whatever happened to freedom of religion that was given to us many years ago? The constitution may be dead, but Jesus Christ will always be! Amen

  2. hvillage says:

    I have, so far, refrained from posting on here because it’s such an obvious argument. I did a little test to see if I could guess what the comments would look like and sure enough: the most cruel and harmful comments are coming from the Judeo-Christians, the most pompous are coming from atheists and the “well educated”, and only a very few make any sense at all in that they made comments based in logic and compassion.

    I think the offending word here is “prayer”. It implies (and you can say it doesn’t but, you’d be making a fool of yourself) speaking with a creator. If they wanted to call it a “moment of silence during which you can meditate, pray or just sit in quiet contemplation”, it would be less offensive.

    As for church and state: just remember the sword cuts both ways. If your religion can seep into how we govern the people then the government can seep into how you worship your god. Scary thought for Christians who can’t even agree on how to worship their interpretation of GOd.

  3. JQP says:

    Human beings are herd animals. This is what causes phenomena like “mass hysteria”, and “mob mentality”… the very essence of tragedies like the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials and the Holocaust, and while Christianity (the overwhelming majority) can be a positive influence on a very few individuals (read everything above), it is not the sole belief system in this city…state…country…world.. it is even divergent within itself, so forgive me, but you don’t exactly have a good track record.

    If you want to recruit with prayer, start by proving how compassionate you can be by accepting other religions and inviting them to pray or meditate in their own way … should your funding come out of their pockets. If you want to manage your child’s education (academic, religious, etc) bring them home and teach them yourself. Maybe it starts with mothers staying home instead of dropping their kids off at day care.

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  6. pawan says:

    i need one school prayer

  7. Bank CardUSA says:

    — with no side effects to speak of!

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