A Minnesota school bus driver who is also the pastor of a church has been taken off his route because he was leading students in prayer while driving.
George Nathaniel, a 54-year-old bus driver of a Brooklyn Park charter school who's also reportedly a pastor of a Minneapolis church, hasn't been fired but his employer, Quality Care Transportation, hasn't given him a new route, according to Star Tribune.
Four years ago Nathaniel was expelled from his job driving Burnsville students to school for the same reason.
Nathaniel says it's his constitutional right to speak and practice his faith. "You've got the freedom to exercise your religious beliefs," he was quoted as saying.
His employer told the Tribune that the school officials had received complaints that he "was influencing minors to the point where he was forcing them to pray."
"He's not going to change. His main focus is to influence even one person in following what he worships," the employer, Muk Musa, was quoted as saying.
The majority of the students in his bus were Russian and Christian.
Nathaniel said, "The students would volunteer to lead the prayer."
Secular and atheist groups claim that public prayer or other expressions of faith are against separation of church and state.
Last year, an atheist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation, demanded that LaPoynor High School in East Texas removed a Christian flag, arguing that the flying of a Christian flag could be considered a school endorsement of Christianity and a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But students responded to it by bringing their own Christian flags to fly on school grounds.
Also last year, coaches of the East Coweta High School football team in Georgia were barred by the school district from praying with students.
A memorandum drafted by Coweta County School System's lawyer stated that "representatives of the school cannot participate in any student initiated/student led prayer or worship while acting in their official capacity."
The guidance was issued following a complaint by FFRF, which centered on the fact that head coach John Small was seen on video putting his hand on a player's shoulder and bowing his head during a team prayer.
"Students have every right for student-led and student-initiated prayer in our schools. But there are pretty clear limits as to the role of employees," Coweta County School System Superintendent Steve Barker was quoted as saying at the time.