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School Bans Christian Mother From Praying on School’s Front Steps
July 26, 2013 at 11:44 AM

School Officials Ban Christian Mother From Praying Aloud on School’s Front Steps

A faithful mother in Concord, New Hampshire, will be banned by public school officials from delivering sermons and speeches on the front steps of Concord High School. Lizarda Urena's public proclamations -- uttered aloud as students entered the school -- included prayers and Bible verses, among other religious sentiment.

Concord School Officials Ban Christian Mother Lizarda Urena From Praying Aloud on School Grounds Following Atheist Complaint


Credit: AP

Urena, who has two high-school aged children, apparently began arriving at the school around 7 a.m. back in February to offer up prayers. Her ritual, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports, began after she heard that bullets were found in a school bathroom. Now officials, led by Superintendent Christine Rath, are cracking down, claiming that the mother's actions will no longer be allowed when the new school year begins.

The mother's prayers apparently came to the attention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist non-profit that works to strip faith out of the public sphere. After learning that Urena was issuing sectarian prayers and proclamations, the organization complained to the district.

"We sent an open records request to the school district, asking them for copies of any meeting minutes or any sort of documents which gave this woman permission to pray on school property," FFRF attorney Rebecca Markert told the Union Leader.

The FFRF was particularly frustrated that the school did not crack down on the speech in the first place. After receiving word from officials that there never was permission for the mother -- at least a documented allowance -- to be speaking on campus in such a manner, the group successfully argued that the Concord School District should make moves to prevent her sermons.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom, a conservative group, defended Urena's prayer atop the school stairs.

"Students and community members that are allowed to come on campus and participate in a neutral thing are allowed to express religious viewpoints," the group's general counsel Matthew Sharp told the Union Leader. "The students know it's the mother and her own speech -- something that the First Amendment protects -- and that it is not the school mandating this woman to do it."

But other groups like the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union agree with the district's stance on the matter. Since students are forced to enter the school and, thus, listen to Urena's speech, the debate is a fascinating one.

The Concord Monitor reports that, as of earlier this week, Urena hadn't yet been told to stop having a presence on campus, but, on Wednesday, Principal Gene Connolly was slated to meet with the mother. The report claims that the mother had already been asked to stop praying aloud, though -- a request she complied with.

Concord School Officials Ban Christian Mother Lizarda Urena From Praying Aloud on School Grounds Following Atheist Complaint

mother prayer

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The outlet, which started to cover the debate back in May, continues:

After the Monitor's article ran [in mid-May], Urena said she was asked to stop praying aloud but was permitted to stay on school property. She heard that people began complaining about her to administrators. When she began praying silently, some students approached her and asked why they could no longer hear her, she said.

Urena plans to continue praying for the students' safety even if she can't do so on campus. She will pray at her home or at the gas station across the street from the school, she said. Although she is sad she will be asked to leave, she said she appreciates that Connolly let her pray there for several months.

Urena's story has prompted diverse responses from faith leaders. While some believe she should have the right to pray at the school in this manner, others agree that the district did the right thing by stopping it.

The FFRF has argued that the district's initial silence was a "stamp of approval" on the mother's faith-based messages. What do you think? Should the mother be allowed to pray...?


  • UpSheRises
    July 26, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Good. That is weird and creepy, and probably scary for some students.

  • angelachristine
    July 26, 2013 at 11:46 AM
    Good. She has no business doing that on public school property!
    by JTROX
    July 26, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    I'm all for prayers.  I would be fine if she was sitting/standing near the school praying respectfully.  I don't think she should be there giving sermons.

  • -Celestial-
    July 26, 2013 at 11:48 AM
    As long as all hoodoo is allowed...
  • JoshRachelsMAMA
    July 26, 2013 at 11:56 AM
    She can pray on the sidewalk, next to/front of the school.
  • elkmomma
    July 26, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    If this article is 100% factual....She has every right to be on campus when her kids are there. IF she or any other student's parent want to stand at the doorway and quietly pray for the safety of all; by all means go for it.  I don't care what faith you are if your praying for the safety of my kid or any child in that school.  My kid would probably join you in to and I have no problem with that either.  However, preaching is not OK unless other faiths / non-faiths are there doing the same thing.  I would have an issue with anyone preaching about faith / non-faith in a public school.

  • tanyainmizzou
    July 26, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Except they might sue to stop that since some think children shouldn't have to be exposed to religion at all.


    A national group that advocates church-state separation has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force a Fayette County school district to remove a Ten Commandments monolith from the grounds of its junior high school.

    On behalf of an unnamed parent and student, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit against the Connellsville Area School District on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

    The foundation alleges the 6-foot tall stone monument at Connellsville Junior High School violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

    They want a judge to order it removed from school property and to prohibit its placement on the grounds of a nearby church.

    The group, through Pittsburgh attorney Marcus B. Schneider of Steele Schneider, contends the monument should not be moved to the Connellsville Church of God’s property because it would still be in view of students “who cannot avoid it when playing on athletic fields.”

    The parent and student are listed in the lawsuit only as Doe 4 and Doe 5.

    Doe 5 is the parent of Doe 4, who according to the lawsuit is a student at the junior high.

    Quoting JoshRachelsMAMA:

    She can pray on the sidewalk, next to/front of the school.

  • IhartU
    by IhartU
    July 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    If she's scaring students, then she should get her ass booted form the property. I know if I dropped my kids off at school and saw some freak preaching and praying like a loon on the front steps, I'd fear for their safety.

  • furbabymum
    July 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

     That is creepy. I'd be upset if my mother was doing that.

  • Jambo4
    by Jambo4
    July 26, 2013 at 12:10 PM
    Quoting JTROX:

    I'm all for prayers.  I would be fine if she was sitting/standing near the school praying respectfully.  I don't think she should be there giving sermons.

    That's what I was thinking too.

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