A Mississippi school district was fined $7,500 for opening an optional assembly with a prayer.
Local Methodist pastor Rev. Rob Gill led the assembly with a prayer at Brandon High School in May of last year. The assembly recognized students who scored more than a 22 on their ACT college admissions test, Fox News reported.
After a student sued the school district, Judge Carlton Reeves ordered the school pay the student’s legal fees and threatened the district with a $10,000 fine if the problem arises again, Fox reported.
The public school district has been in trouble before, when the same student sued the district in 2013 for making him attend assemblies celebrating Christianity.
Reeves said the more recent assembly violated his previous ruling that demanded the school stop “proselytizing Christianity” and ban prayer in school. The judge also fined the district for allowing Gideons International to distribute Bibles to elementary school children, Fox reported.
“The district’s breach did not take very long and it occurred in a very bold way,” Reeves wrote in his judgment. “Its conduct displays that the district did not make any effort to adhere to the agreed judgment.”
School district attorneys are arguing that the event was optional and thus did not violate the student’s First Amendment rights. But Reeves said he believes the district is trying to promote and spread Christianity to its students, Fox reported.
“From the accounts detailed in the record, it appears that incorporating religious script and prayers with school activities has been a long-standing tradition of the district,” Reeves said, according to Fox.
Rankin County Superintendent Lynn Weatherby said faculty and students will not stop praying, but that administrators will need to make some changes in order to avoid future repercussions.