Late last year as children had already gone back to school way after summer break, a controversy arose about a local Pastor praying on school grounds at the flag poles of 4 elementary schools (Lake Asbury, Shasowlawn, Clay Hill (link not found) and Charles E. Bennett) located in the Clay County Florida district.
Pastor Ron Baker, who is pastor at Russell Baptist Church in Green Cove Springs, Florida, had been leading the prayer at these schools for more 12 years without a problem until Nov. 7, 2011. According to WOKV.com, Baker led his usual prayer on the school grounds of Clay Hill Elementary school with a crowd of about 100 people (many adults and relatively few schoolchildren), who gathered outside the flag pole at 8:15 AM. Pastor Ron has a dilemma. Should he stick to his convictions and hold prayer at the poles, on school property, or should he pray elsewhere?
A resolution was issued on November 10, 2011, by the School District/School Board of Clay County stating:
- Reverend Baker will discontinue his morning-prayer sessions at the flag poles of Clay Hill, Lake Asbury, Shadowlawn and Charles E. Bennett Elementary Schools.
- Reverend Baker is free to find locations off of School Board property but in proximity to each of the schools at which to continue his prayer meetings.
- The School Board, through their attorney, will contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to ensure that they are appraised of the resolution of this matter.
- This resolution does not pertain to the student-initiated, student-led annual/semi-annual “Meet Me At The Pole” activity.
Florida Baptist Witness reported some interesting facts concerning an ‘amicable resolution’ to moving the prayer to other nearby locations to the schools.
- Baker said that he has secured locations to hold the prayers on adjacent properties at each of the four schools.
- FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor praised school officials for removing Baker’s prayer time, according to the Florida Times-Union. “It’s great to see reason prevail,” Gaylor said. “I’m so pleased with the response from the school district at this point, treating [Baker] as a public nuisance. This is proper.” Gaylor called Baker’s desire to continue the prayers at adjacent properties “predatory.”
- In addition to the opinion of the School Board attorney, two other organizations – Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defense Fund – have issued their judgments on the matter.
- Liberty Counsel’s argument that students, staff and members of the community have certain free exercise rights in public schools. “Liberty Counsel stands ready to vindicate the rights of the citizens and students of Clay County, but hopes no such action will be necessary,” Mihet wrote, adding his group also offers its representation without charge “should the Board take action consistent with Liberty Counsel’s advice.”
There were 2 injunctions issued against Pastor Ron Baker (hear what he had to say right here), one of which banned him from school property of the said schools. One of these schools is attended by his grandchild. Baker was not allowed to drop-off the child or attend any school activities that the child would be involved in. As of December 16, 2011 one of the injunctions was lifted after Baker promised the school that he would not hold prayer on the grounds until a workshop, to decide if prayer will be allowed on school campus (see First Coast News report) would be held.
It is clear that someone from the FFRF is behind the controversy. Remember, over twelve years has passed with Pastor Baker and some parents, and well-wishers, coming to the poles to consecrate blessings upon all students, teachers, facilities and praying that each school had a great day, week and year. Should church and state collide in this matter? This is happening in Florida, but it could happen in YOUR community too. What are our Inalienable Rights as a US citizens?
??? What Say You???
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