Students in Missouri continue to gather and pray during lunchtime to symbolise their strong faith despite attempts by an atheist group to bar a youth pastor from visiting the school and leading them in prayer at lunchtime.
"Blessed to be a part of a school where so many students stand up for a student-led prayer during lunch," wrote student Carley Smith on Facebook along with a photo of students at Buffalo High School praying in support of Hollister Middle School, which is the target of the complaint.
Their action was in response to a letter by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) demanding school districts in Hollister and Reed Spring, Missouri to stop the visits of youth pastor Robert Bruce and representatives of KLIFE Christian ministry.
FFRF informed Superintendent Dr. Brian Wilson of the Hollister R-V School District about a video showing Bruce "leading the entire lunchroom in a prayer with all of the students surrounding him in a circle."
"The parent's child also reports that students were directed in a similar prayer all of last week and this week as well during the seventh-grade lunch," FFRF staff attorney Patrick Elliott said in the letter.
Bruce is a member of KLIFE Tri-Lakes, which its website says, "works alongside churches and families in the community to teach and encourage kids to be strong in the Lord in spite of all the negative pressures they face as teenagers," reported Christian News Network.
"When the school grants KLIFE ministers access to students, it advances KLIFE's mission of proselytizing. In many cases, we have found that similar youth programs use schools to befriend students with the goal of spreading a religious message and recruiting members for their youth groups. No religious organization should have direct access to students at school," the FFRF said.
Wilson told the Springfield News Leader that the prayer was not a school-sanctioned event.
"This was student-led, it was student initiated," he explained, adding that students have long been praying during lunch.
He said a minister from KLIFE was visiting the school when a student asked him to pray. He agreed, unaware that it was against school policy.
"After we were made aware of that, we addressed the issue," he said.
FFRF even posted a video of the said prayer event on YouTube.
It said the youth pastor should not be around students.
"Youth pastors have had unrestricted access to students during the school day to be able to befriend [students], and ultimately recruit them for their religious groups. We've been talking with the parents [in Hollister] and considering our legal options," Elliott told KOLR.