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Letter to the Editor about a First Amendment Violation

school prayer first amendment 1st amendment disaster hurricane

Letter to the Editor about a First Amendment Violation

A letter to the editor, with a partially clipped photograph. (The newspaper is the Virgin Islands Daily News, October 19, 2017 edition.)


Caption of partially clipped photograph: “Daily News file photo by BILL KISER
“Assistant Principal Michelle Wilkinson, left, and acting principal Merlene Jones, lead students, teachers and parents in prayer at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School on the opening day of school Oct. 10 on St. Thomas.”


Headline: “Disaster is no excuse for violating the law”


Text of the letter: “The front page of the Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, edition of the Daily News shows a photo of Assistant Principal Michelle Wilkinson and acting principal Merlene Jones of Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School leading the students in prayer.


“Boschulte Middle School is a public school, and as an arm of the government, it is required by the 1st and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution to remain neutral in religious matters.


“What the principal and assistant principal did is flagrantly illegal under U.S. law.


“If school officials wish to pray in the privacy of their offices, they may do so. If students wish to pray on their own, they are guaranteed that right under the First Amendment. They may even pray as a group, so long as they do it on their own, as some stateside public school students to with their “See you at the pole” events. But school officials, as representatives of the government, are not allowed to lead such gatherings.


“I understand that in times of difficulty, many people turn to their gods for comfort, strength, or assistance. But just as with the anarchy on the roads of St. Thomas, disaster is not a license to break the law. And both driving and praying can be done without breaking the law.


“If you are wondering What Would Jesus Do, then please read Matthew 6:5-6.


Richard Callwood III, St. Thomas