School prayer pits mom against NH school district

Published on Friday, 9 August 2013 11:03 - Written by

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The longstanding argument over school prayer is being tested in New Hampshire, where a school district has told a mother she can no longer pray on the steps of her children's high school.

For two years, Lizarda Urena of Concord had been praying near Concord High School for the protection of the students. In February, she started praying on the school's steps for about 15 minutes every day after police responded to a report of bullets found in a school toilet. She held a Bible and recited passages as students passed by.

Last month, after the district got questions and complaints, including one from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the principal told her she could no longer pray on campus.

The Concord Monitor reports the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based conservative Christian group that advocates for religious rights, is providing legal services to Urena.

Matthew Sharp, the group's general counsel, says Urena's speech is protected under the First Amendment. He said the foundation's complaint that the prayers violate separation of church and state is "blatantly false."

John Teague, the school district's attorney, said the decision to ask Urena to stop wasn't driven by the foundation's complaint. He said the school had already received inquiries from the community and had decided the action would no longer be allowed.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.