A Maryland elementary school’s small plaque displaying seven words from the Lord’s Prayer is unconstitutional and should be removed, a national atheist group says.
The wooden sign in the lunchroom at Jarrettsville (Md.) Elementary School reads, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and hangs near the doors where students enter to get their lunch. It is approximately three feet wide and six inches tall.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) says the sign violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The group sent a letter to the school district requesting its removal.
“The plaque at Jarrettsville Elementary is directly from the Christian Bible and is part of the most well-known Christian prayer, the Lord’s Prayer,” FFRF senior counsel Patrick Elliott wrote in a letter to the superintendent. “Despite the absence of any mention of ‘god’ or a concluding ‘amen,’ the plaque functions as a prayer.”
A parent notified the group about the sign.
The sign, the FFRF letter said, is a form of “proselytizing to a captive audience.”
“We request that you take immediate action and remove this unconstitutional religious plaque from the cafeteria wall,” the letter said.
Said FFRF attorney Annie Laurie Gaylor, “It is disturbing that a public school would be preaching a New Testament message to a captive audience of elementary schoolkids. Children at that young and impressionable age should not be subjected to attempted religious brainwashing.”
Some supporters of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, though, questioned the group’s demands.
“I feel like our resources could be used to fight bigger battles than this,” wrote Corey Umstott.
Another person, Robbie Grace, wrote, “Just playing devil's advocate here... While I agree with everything the FFRF stands for.... I think this plaque might be a soft violation (but a violation, nonetheless). Yes, nearly everyone recognizes it as a quote from the bible, but it is somewhat ambiguous as it doesn't mention God, Jesus, Christ, praying, the Bible, or anything else connected with the Christianity. Most non Christians or lifelong atheists/agnostics would probably not recognize the quote.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.