“Students are encouraged to attend these sessions by an announcement made by the principal over the school’s intercom system,” the letter states. “These public school prayer sessions are clearly unconstitutional.”
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s letter, dated May 15, 2013, outlines the reasons why the Friday morning prayers organized and led by Gwen Pope, a FHS teacher, are unconstitutional. “Courts have … consistently ruled that the Establishment Clause prohibits teachers from leading, sponsoring, or participating in prayer with students, whether during school hours or not,” the letter points out. “Not only is leading students in prayer at school unconstitutional, so is ‘inviting or encouraging students to pray.’”
As well as conducting prayer sessions on school grounds during the school day, Mrs. Pope also “prominently displays Christian literature on her desk,” the letter reveals, also a constitutional violation.