An attorney who works for TV preacher Pat Robertson is peddling inaccurate advice about “See You at the Pole” prayer events that public school officials would be wise to ignore, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Jay Sekulow, chief attorney for Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice, is circulating a letter nationwide that purports to advise public school administrators on “See You at the Pole” events.
“See You at the Pole” is an annual observance that this year takes place on Sept. 26. Students in many communities meet before the school day for voluntary prayer at the school’s flagpole. The events are run by students and participation is purely voluntary.
In his letter, Sekulow claims that teachers, administrators and parents can take part in “See You at the Pole” prayers. But Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said school officials should be wary of Sekulow’s advice.
In fact, says Lynn, allowing teachers, administrators and outside adults to engage in religious activities with public school students would raise a host of constitutional concerns.
“Sekulow’s analysis reflects wishful thinking, not legal reality,” said Lynn. “Public school officials need to be extremely wary of his unsolicited legal advice.”
In his letter, Sekulow asserts, “If the event occurs during ‘non-contract time,’ teachers should be able to participate in the event without violating the Establishment Clause so long as they make it clear that they are present in their roles as citizens rather than in their official capacities. This may necessitate that teachers wishing to attend the event take affirmative steps to prevent any confusion among students concerning their participation.”
He also writes, “Parents and other adults should be allowed to participate in See You at the Pole events to the same extent that adults may attend on-campus events held by other student groups.”
Lynn said Sekulow’s latest gambit runs counter to repeated assertions by Religious Right leaders that all they want is student-run, voluntary prayer in schools.
“For years, students have run these events and things have worked out pretty well,” Lynn said. “Now Sekulow is trying to slip teachers, administrators and parents in under the radar and have them participate in prayers. I advise public school officials to be highly skeptical of his advice. Following Sekulow’s advice just might land you in court.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.