The Lord’s Prayer breaks out during school board meeting after official tells woman her offer to publicly pray for students is ‘not permitted’

News & Politics

The Lord’s Prayer broke out during a Virginia public school board meeting last month after the board chair told a woman that her offer to publicly pray for students was “not permitted.”

What are the details?

A woman addressed the Suffolk school board during the public comment portion of the Aug. 10 meeting and told the board she wanted to use her time at the microphone to “pray for Suffolk Public Schools with all of you.”

Image source: YouTube screenshot

As she asked those in the room to bow their heads and offered apologies to “anybody [who] objects,” Board Chair Tyron Riddick interjected, “Excuse me, we can’t do that.”

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Image source: YouTube screenshot

“Why can’t we?” the woman asked Riddick. “I’d like to pray for our students in our school.”

Riddick replied that prayer wasn’t what she “signed up to do” and asked her to “get back on to your topic.”

“That is my topic sir,” the woman told Riddick.

“Well, then, it’s not permitted at this time,” Riddick responded.

“To pray for our schools is not permitted?” she asked.

“That’s correct,” Riddick answered again.

With that, the woman invited those in attendance to join her in prayer outside the building after the board meeting, adding that “I think … the only way that we’re gonna come together is through God and our faith.” She also asked God to place those “working for children” in the district “for any other reason … under conviction.”

As the woman walked away from the microphone, Riddick told the gathered crowd, “I do want to clarify, I don’t object to prayer. I believe that man should always pray. I mean, I love prayer, but this is not the place per the law.”

As Riddick asked an attorney present to address the issue, a number of people in attendance stood up and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Riddick responded by calling for a meeting recess and banging his gavel, after which it appeared another board member told him to “ask the officers to remove” those who were praying.

He then told police officers to “clear the room” during the recess, and a pair of officers were seen approaching the front of the public area of the meeting room:

Image source: YouTube screenshot

The prayer was completed, and it isn’t clear whether anyone was removed from the room. After the video cut off for a short period of time, Riddick reappeared on camera and addressed the crowd again.

“I believe in abiding by a book that is very influential, and it says to be decent and in order, and we have to be mindful that we don’t cherry-pick the book,” he told the crowd, presumably in reference to 1 Corinthians 14:40 in the Bible. “But conduct unbecoming will not be tolerated, since it’s not a place to grandstand. We’re here for business, and if we’re truly about our Father’s business, we would be decent and in order. We can respectfully disagree, and if we fall short, we can repent.”

After the recess, Riddick again spoke about the prayer that broke out during the meeting.

“What was witnessed tonight … could be a violation of other persons’ rights … everybody has a right to choose their own religion [in America]. And if we allow a Christian prayer to proceed, what do we do if a Satanist was to come in and say, ‘I want to pray as well’? We have to respect everyone’s rights.”

Riddick added that if the board allowed any one prayer, it would open the door for anyone of any faith to do so. “So we have to be mindful [that] although we embody certain biblical values, the best way to project our religious belief is to exemplify what we say we believe. And if we fall short, be quick to correct and ask for forgiveness and move forward.”

The Christian Post said it reached out to Riddick for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

Here’s video of the relevant portion of the school board meeting:

Anything else?

Attorneys with the Founding Freedoms Law Center and First Liberty Institute sent a Sept. 5 letter to the Suffolk school board saying that “the Constitution prohibits the government from excluding religious expression from a public forum; it certainly does not require such censorship. We ask that the School Board clarify its policy accordingly, and we would be happy to work with the School Board to craft new policy that does not discriminate against religious citizens or violate their constitutional rights.“

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