Putnam City Schools, Atheist Group At Odds Over Prayer Photo

Monday, October 13th 2014, 9:08 pm
By: News 9

One Oklahoma school district is in a fight with atheist over a picture. Putnam City Schools claims it has had the picture, of what appears to be two children praying, for nearly two decades, but the atheist group says it's illegal. 

That group is called the Freedom from Religion Foundation. And after two requests to take the picture down, it still hangs at this middle school, even while possible legal action looms

Inside the main office of Putnam City's Kenneth Cooper Middle School hangs an image of two children, hands folded, with an American Flag in the back ground; an image Middle School Parent Dwaine Curtis hasn't ever really noticed.

"You see pictures like that all the time hanging up everywhere. [It] doesn't bother me any and shouldn't bother anyone else," said Putnam City Parent, Dwaine Curtis.

But it did bother one parent, who contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), based in Wisconsin, and now the organization wants the image removed, saying it sends a clear message that "Real American Children Pray" and it violates the Establishment Clause, protecting any establishment of religion.

"It just doesn't belong in a public school," said Andrew Seidel, attorney for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc.

The Oklahoma ACLU agrees.

"We have to insure that it's not just the majority of faith that we're protecting, but students of other faiths or no faith at all," said Ryan Kiesel, Director of the Oklahoma ACLU.

In response to FFRF, the district's legal representation wrote:

"The poster...has hung in the office for 18 years without a complaint" and the image "does not create coercive pressure on students."

Finally the letter stated, "The District will not agree to remove the image from its office."

It is a statement Curtis backs.

“They should take a stand for that. Just a picture, just an innocent picture," said Curtis.

The foundation then cited similar legal cases and made sure the district knew legal action could be taken.

"We don't want to waste the public schools money and we hope they don't want to waste it on a losing legal battle either," said Seidel.

The district has responded to the foundations second letter by saying, the legal team is reviewing the case law and conducting additional research.