Tenn. GOP Leader Denounces ACLU's Alleged 'Scare Tactics' Against School Prayer

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By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
October 15, 2013|3:44 pm

Tennessee's Republican Party has sent a letter to school superintendents denouncing an earlier letter from a civil liberties group expressing opposition to prayer at high school football games.

Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney sent the letter to superintendents last week in response to an American Civil Liberties Union letter sent earlier this month.

"Obviously, the ACLU-TN is using scare tactics and the implied threat of litigation to stamp out the First Amendment rights of students," wrote Devaney.

"Not only is this a transparent political stunt, it is a misreading of the law and misunderstanding of Tennessee's unique spiritual heritage."

Devaney told The Christian Post in an interview that he wrote the letter because he "felt it was time someone stood up to them," adding that the ACLU's letter to school officials "was the final straw."

"Groups like the ACLU and Freedom from Religion Foundation won't be happy until God is completely removed from public life," said Devaney.

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"In doing so they miss a vital point laid out by our Founding Fathers--the First Amendment isn't meant to protect government from religion, it's meant to protect individuals of faith from an overbearing government."

Devaney also told CP that while the ACLU has stated support for student-led prayer, he believed that this support was not genuine.

"In the past when student-led prayer has come under attack, the ACLU has never stood up to defend those individuals," said Devaney.

"In fact, I believe their effort can best be characterized by saying they believe religious expression is allowed so long as it is neither seen nor heard. Their letter was a bullying tactic and their position is completely antithetical to what we believe in Tennessee."

Earlier this month the Tennessee chapter of the ACLU sent out letters to public school officials in response to apparent school-sponsored prayer at various high school football programs.

ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy M. Weinberg wrote the two-page letter, which cited a pair of Supreme Court cases to argue school-sponsored prayers at games were "unconstitutional."

"The absence of school-endorsed prayer from a public school's athletic event does not impose any burden on the ability of students to personally affirm their religious beliefs," wrote Weinberg.

"It is well settled that school faculty, coaches, administrators or invited clergy may not lead students in prayer or conduct a prayer during a school event."

Weinberg stated to The Christian Post that both letters agreed that "the First Amendment is intended to ensure religious freedom is not violated by the government."

"While Devaney claimed that our letter attacked 'student-led prayer,' our letter addressed school-sponsored prayer," said Weinberg.

Weinberg added that the initial letter sent out by the ACLU was meant to serve as a "gentle reminder" to school officials rather than "scare tactics."

"Our letter was a gentle reminder to school superintendents that government officials, which include school officials, should not use their official positions to promote their personal religious beliefs," said Weinberg.

"It is this very limitation of government interference in religion that allows individual religious liberty, including that of students and their families, to thrive."

 

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