Beliefnet News

(RNS) A Florida judge acquitted two Florida school officials Thursday (Sept. 17) of charges they broke the terms of an order that was meant to prevent faculty-led prayer at public school events.
Principal Frank Lay and athletic director Robert Freeman were cleared of criminal charges that could have led to a fine or six months in jail. Both men work in the Santa Rosa County school system in northern Florida.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and a lawyer who defended the men, said the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union resulted in the officials being treated like criminals for blessing a meal at a luncheon off school property.
“For a moment I felt I must be watching a futuristic movie filled with hyperbole about how it might one day be if we lose our liberties,”
he said.
In January, the men reached a settlement with the ACLU which charged they had been involved in “egregious First Amendment violations.”
U.S. District Judge M. Case Rodgers ruled that the prayer in question was spontaneous and did not violate the order, the Pensacola News-Journal reported.
A third school employee, secretary Michelle Winkler, was cleared on similar charges last month; she was accused of arranging for her husband, who is not a school employee, to read a prayer she had written for an Employee of the Year banquet.
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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