See You at the Pole: Millions of students to fearlessly pray

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
 | 
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

Millions of students on school campuses from coast to coast and around the world will be seen Wednesday bowing their heads to God in prayer to participate in the 25th annual “See You at the Pole” event.

Students, teachers, staff and administration, along with parents and community members, are all invited to exercise their freedom of speech around their campus flagpoles and pray for their schools, friends, teachers, government, nation and citizens across the globe.

This year’s event is forecasted to become a trending event in the social media world, which can be tapped into with #NeverStopPraying. The theme is touted by organizations supporting this worldwide event, such as the non-profit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which encourages students, faculties and administrations alike to read and distribute its readily available legal memo. ADF’s printable online document assures everyone on campus that they can fearlessly pray and take part in this year’s “See You at the Pole” event, regardless of any resistance or threats that they may receive at school telling them otherwise.

“Students don’t abandon their constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse gate,” asserts ADF senior legal counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “They continue to have the freedom to peacefully express their beliefs while at school, and that certainly includes prayer. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of the students’ religious or political beliefs.”

Teachers, don’t be schooled

Because many students and teachers have been approached in years past by public school officials erroneously warning them that exercising their faith on campus was a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, ADF and other supporting ministries of SYATP, such as the Pacific Justice Institute, exhort them to confidently stand their ground with the law on their side.

“Just last year, we were contacted by a teacher in Bakersfield [California] who was being told by administrators that teachers could not join in this prayer event,” recounted PJI president Brad Dacus. “PJI quickly sent a letter to the school district, and they reversed course, allowing this and other teachers to exercise their God-given and constitutional rights to pray.  We had to remind this school district that, although SYATP is a student-led and student-initiated event, teachers may absolutely join in to offer encouragement.”

To make sure teachers aren’t intimidated and misguided this year, PJI suggests that believers share this message with teachers to make sure they know their rights so they can confidently participate in this year’s SYATP.

“Even after more than 20 years, misinformation persists in some places (and is perpetuated by anti-religious groups) that teachers, parents, or community members cannot be part of SYATP,” Dacus points out. ‘We are staying vigilant and working to counter these myths wherever they arise.”

No gag order on prayer

While the climate in many public schools over the past few decades has been increasingly hostile to people of faith — particularly Christians — many are surprised to find out that the alleged “separation of church and state” doesn’t mean that people must conceal their beliefs the second they step on campus. Bibles can be read, beliefs can be shared, and prayers can freely be spoken on public school campuses from coast to coast.
 
“[S]tudents have a constitutional right to participate in SYATP through prayer and worship activities,” ADF’s legal memo informs. “[They] have constitutional rights to inform their fellow students about the SYATP event, as long as they do not materially disrupt the academic process while doing so.”

And even though many progressive and atheistic organizations — such the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation — will continue to argue that religion has no place in public schools, they always run into a problem when confronted with a ruling from the highest court in the land.

“[The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that] religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination,” the legal memo quotes SCOTUS. “[N]othing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day.”

ADF wants to make sure that the attrition rate of believers for this year’s SYATP dwindles to an all-time low so that flagpoles on campuses across the world will become beacons of light, hope and healing. To make this a reality, the legal group encourages students, parents and teachers to confidently stand up against the opposition and boldly stand up for the gospel with the law of the land at their side.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom of students to participate in ‘See You at the Pole’ and its prayer and worship activities,” ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp concludes. “Anyone who says otherwise is misinformed.”

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