Updated at 4:39 PM on April 1, 2022:
Based on articles in The Sentinel Record and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as well as conversations with individuals in Garland County, it seems that the Lake Hamilton School Board members have continued to pray before their meetings, but prayer is not part of the board’s official agenda.
Below is our original article from March 28.
Earlier this month the Freedom From Religion Foundation reported it had successfully stopped the Lake Hamilton School District in Garland County from opening school board meetings with prayer.
In an article dated March 2, the atheist organization wrote,
A concerned parent from Lake Hamilton School District in Arkansas contacted FFRF regarding prayer at school board meetings; a subsequent review of board meeting minutes confirmed that board meetings were consistently opened with prayer.
Board members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way, Heineman wrote to the legal counsel for the school board a few weeks ago. However, by praying at official meetings, the school board lends its power and prestige to religion, amounting to a governmental endorsement. And, FFRF pointed out, prayer also alienates nonreligious Americans who make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, including more than one in four Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated.
The board has quickly responded to FFRF’s missive. Counsel for the board replied that “prayer has been removed from the standard agenda.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Freedom From Religion Foundation has bullied a school district in Arkansas.
In March of 2017 the organization threatened to sue the Harrison School Board for opening board meetings with prayer. School board members voted unanimously to keep praying despite the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s threat.
In December of 2019 Pea Ridge Public Schools suspended public prayer at school board meetings and ballgames following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
More generally, in 2013 the group threatened legal action against Conway public schools who were letting local youth ministers visit members of their youth groups during lunch at school, and the foundation has complained repeatedly about the fact that Arkansas law lets public schools offer academic courses on the Bible.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also is one of the groups suing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Arkansas Capitol lawn.
It’s worth noting that across the board, groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation tend to threaten lawsuits. If people stand their ground, these organizations rarely follow through by filing lawsuits.
Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.