The debate over returning the Lord’s Prayer to the daily exercises at Sturgeon Heights school took another incremental step forward this week.
Sturgeon school board trustees unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday night, allowing for another step toward surveying parents about returning the prayer to the school.
The practice, which had been in place at the school for years, was suspended for this school year after several parents complained about the prayer in a public school.
The school board reviewed its policy earlier this year and set up a new process that can allow for prayer in school, but it begins with a request from parents.
The board received such a request from three Sturgeon Heights parents in December. Acting on that request, the board approved a plan from the school’s principal that will see a new parent committee struck that will include a teacher plus representatives from both sides of the issue.
Trustee Wendy Miller said she was encouraged the principal’s proposed parent committee would bring together the two sides on the survey.
“It is not just going to be a committee of people who want the Lord’s Prayer.”
The parent committee will be tasked with preparing a survey on the issue, which will be returned to the school board for final approval before going out to parents.
The package the board approved on Wednesday includes a draft survey for parents, which the committee will use as a starting point for the final survey.
That package includes a proposal for how the prayer would be managed in the school: allowing students to proceed to the gymnasium first thing in the morning to participate in the prayer before heading to class and regular announcements.
Students whose parents don’t want them to participate in the prayer would skip the gymnasium and go directly to their first class.
All of the trustees stressed that any survey has to make clear the board has not decided on the issue, but is simply trying to determine the level of interest.
Luke Fevin, one of the parents opposed to the prayer in school, said rather than going forward with the survey he would rather the school board had simply denied the request.
“I am fundamentally opposed to segregating and ostracizing children on the basis of religion in a public school,” he said. “There is no direction that I see here as positive.”
He said if the survey comes back positively, which he expects it will, his daughter would be segregated from her classmates.
While he contends the school act allows for Christian prayer in schools, he doesn’t believe that makes it right.
“I think the board should have recognized that this is an archaic piece of legislation from 1905 and that it just has no merit in a multi-cultural environment.”
He argued teachers would have to enforce the splitting of the students in the morning and the whole policy will create unnecessary tension.
“This whole scenario puts burden on the teachers, it is very likely to cut into class time, it creates potential for conflict.”
The Gazette attempted to contact Sandra Shelemey, one of the parents who asked for the prayer to be reinstated, but she was unavailable.