Federal Judge Orders School Officials to Allow Kindergarten Student to Say Grace Before Snack Time
Saratoga Springs, NY -- After a formal hearing in U.S. District Court in Utica today, Judge David N. Hurd ordered Dorothy Nolan Elementary School officials to continue to allow 5-year-old kindergarten student Kayla Broadus to say her prayers out loud before snack time. On Feb. 5, 2002, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute succeeded in obtaining a temporary court order that allowed Kayla to continue saying her prayers until a formal hearing could take place. Judge Hurd's order will allow Kayla to continue saying her prayers out loud until a final decision is reached in the case.
Kayla Kimp-Broadus is a kindergartner at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. During snack time, Kayla invited three of her classmates who shared a table with her to join hands as she said grace before they ate their snacks. Mistakenly citing the separation of church and state, Kayla's teacher stopped them from doing so and informed Kayla that she was not allowed to pray. The school's principal concurred with the teacher.
After being contacted by Kayla's mother, Institute legal staff wrote to the school's principal, demanding that school officials apologize to Kayla and allow her to freely exercise her constitutional right to religious expression by offering thanks to God for their snacks. The letter also corrected the teacher's and principal's assumption that this was a matter of separation of church and state when, in fact, there was no "state" action involved. In response, the school's legal counsel insisted that Kayla still would not be allowed to pray out loud before snack time, even though children were free to talk out loud among themselves during this time. Rutherford Institute attorneys have noted that public school students have the right to pray--out loud or in silence--over their meals or at any other time while at school, as long as it is not disruptive.
"We are thankful that the federal court continues to uphold Kayla's right to express her faith in God without fear of censorship," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "Rutherford Institute attorneys will continue to prepare for a full trial later this year to permanently establish that Kayla and millions of other devout students have the same rights of expression as other children in school."
The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.