Trustees of the Grangeville-area school district say they kept prayer in school because most patrons wanted it that way, but one woman is protesting.
At its Oct. 15 meeting, trustees said until they are ordered by a court to do otherwise, they will continue to allow prayer at high school graduations and the Gideons to distribute Bibles to fifth-graders.Phyllis Wright of Grangeville does not agree.
In a letter to District Superintendent Al A. Arnzen, dated Oct. 23, Wright says: "You, a man who is in charge of the education of our young people, today visited a classroom and encouraged those students to disregard the Constitution. In your role as educator you have missed a great chance to teach them to cherish and protect their liberties."
The School Board of District 241 is "saying, `This is the law but we don't like it and we're not going to pay attention to it unless somebody calls us on it,' " Wright said. "The message is terrifying when you stop to think about it."
Arnzen said he did not try to influence the opinions of the seniors in that class, and he denied telling them the American Civil Liberties Union supports child pornography.
"At no time did I ever say that the ACLU was good, bad or indifferent," Arnzen said Monday.
Arnzen said he does not have a personal opinion on the matter. He did tell the board at the Oct. 15 meeting State School Superintendent Jerry Evans has recommended all schools discontinue any religious practices. The ACLU currently is reviewing activities at the Madison School District at Rexburg and the University of Idaho, although no suits have been filed. It has filed a suit against Utah school districts because they allow prayers at graduation.
Arnzen said the Gideons distributed Bibles at Grangeville Elementary School last week.
"I felt like I had no choice because it is my job to carry out the wishes or the policy of the school board and it's either that or insubordination on my part," he said.
Wright said Arnzen also tried to persuade her not to make her letter public. He replied he did that to avoid bad publicity.
Jack Van Valkenburgh of the ACLU in Idaho said he has not received a copy of Wright's letter and has heard no complaints from students or parents in District 241. The group would not take action without such a complaint, he said.