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Published On: Wed, Nov 12th, 2014

Colorado student, Chase Windebank, sues school for banning student prayer, singing

A Colorado high school student moved ahead with a lawsuit against his high school after the Colorado Springs school officials banned him and other students from student led prayer, singing and discussion during their free time.

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

photo Josh Janssen via Flickr

Chase Windebank, a senior at Pine Creek High School, is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by legal ministry Alliance Defending Freedom for violating his First Amendment rights.

“Religious speech is expressly protected by the First Amendment, and public schools have no business stopping students from praying together during their free time,” ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp said in a statement posted on the ADF website.

According to court documents, Windebank and his friends used free time to discuss religion, issues, pray and sing in an unoccupied room for the last three years. In late September, the assistant principal told Windebank and the other students they could only participate in religious activity such as singing and praying before or after school.

The group met following the warning but refrained from praying in an attempt to comply with the new free time policy. The group also tried meeting before school to pray, however attendance dropped from 90 students to 20 because of how difficult it is to arrive at school early.

The high school senior, with the help of ADF, is now asking the court to issue an injunction preventing the school from “denying his right to engage in Christian religious expression.”

One issue debated in the lawsuit is whether Windebank and his friends were discussing faith during instructional time.

In a letter to ADF, Director for Legal Relations Patricia Richardson defended the school’s decision to discourage the students from meeting during the school day stating “In accordance with the Equal Access Act, non-curriculum related groups such as Chase’s prayer group, may meet at Pine Creek High School during non-instructional time.” Richardson quoted the administrative policy to define “non-instructional time” as “time set aside for each school before actual classroom instruction begins or after actual classroom instructions ends.”

Windebank and his friends were meeting during what he called “Open Time” in the legal documents. The document equated this time to “recess or lunch period” where students often use the time to “read a book, send text messages to their friends or play on their phone.”

The Christian Post could not find any mentions of Open Time on the Colorado Springs District 20 website or in Pine Creek High School’s policy handbooks.

Windebank and ADF also argued that the group did use the Seminar Time as outlined by Pine Creek school officials and often discuss similar issues to the other non-religious groups. However he and his friends discuss those issues from a religious perspective.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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