Atheist group renews suit regarding school prayer in Rankin County schools

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A student supported by an atheist group says the Rankin County school district is still violating a ban on school prayer.

The senior at Northwest Rankin High School, represented by the American Humanist Association, filed a contempt motion Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Jackson. The student says an April 17 districtwide honors program violated the district’s November settlement of a lawsuit over Christian-themed assemblies at the school.

A district spokeswoman and a lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In an affidavit, the student said the Rev. Rob Gill, pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, gave an invocation at the honors program, meant to recognize all students in the district who scored above 22 on the ACT test.

The student said she felt pressured to participate in a prayer that she perceived as a reference to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The student said Rankin County Superintendent Lynn Weathersby and other officials took part.

“As a result of the defendants’ actions surrounding the prayer at the awards ceremony, I felt incredibly embarrassed, humiliated and frustrated,” states the 17-year-old student, identified only as M.B. in the complaint.

The student said she was also forced to attend the original assembly at Northwest Rankin that sparked the lawsuit.