Virginia parents joined forces to recite the Lord’s Prayer at a heated school board meeting last month, sparking a debate about the permissibility of prayer during public comment at meetings.
“We can’t do that,” said Board Chairman Tyron D. Riddick.
When Kilgore asked why, Riddick said, “That’s not what you signed up to do, ma’am.”
The board chair then asked her to return to her intended topic, but Kilgore asked, “To pray for our schools is not permitted?”
“That’s correct,” Riddick replied.
At that point, Dacia Smith, a mother of six, stood in the audience and started reciting the Lord’s Prayer, with many others joining in.
“The spirit in me just said, ‘Oh, no, I will not be squashed out.’ And I thought, ‘OK, then give me the words.’ And I got on my feet and out came ‘The Lord’s Prayer,'” Smith said, according to Fox News. “And when I opened them, I didn’t realize how many people had chosen to stand in that room with me.”
In reponse, Riddick called in law enforcement to clear the room. But Smith wasn’t afraid.
“My fear of the Lord is greater than the fear of whatever repercussions that might have come from … man or the officer at that point,” Smith said.
Riddick later explained that he believed allowing Kilgore to pray as part of her public comment would be unconstitutional.
However, Kilgore’s legal representation, First Liberty Institute and Founding Freedoms Law Center, believe it was Riddick’s actions that were unconstitutional.
“This understanding is mistaken,” the two law firms wrote in a joint letter to the board. “In fact, the Constitution prohibits the government from excluding religious expression from a public forum; it certainly does not require such censorship.”