Teacher Meeting Prayers Violate Constitution, Court Holds

Prayers at mandatory public school staff meetings in Arkansas violate the First Amendment principle of church-state separation, a federal appeals court has ruled.

On Aug. 24, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of Steve Warnock, an art teacher and part-time bus driver in the Devalls Bluff School District, who argued that Superintendent Charles Archer violated the Constitution by conducting prayers at mandatory teacher training meetings.

The 8th Circuit ruled in Warnock v. Archer that while the “government, of course, may speak on a large number of different issues” the First Amendment “forbids it from conveying the message that it decisively endorses a particular religious position. We believe that prayers at mandatory teacher meetings and in-service training convey such a decisive endorsement.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing against mandatory school-organized prayer, lauded the ruling.