Ken Klukowski

Three Florida school employees will go to federal court on September 17 to see if they'll be thrown behind bars. The reason? Prayer. Their school made a deal with the ACLU to stop praying and this ridiculous situation proves that you can't make a deal with the devil.

The Santa Rosa County School District is in an area of northern Florida where people uphold traditional values and customs. One of those customs is the widespread use of prayer at all sorts of public events -- including school events. Then the ACLU came in, filed a federal lawsuit to stop the pernicious influence of students hearing people pray.

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After a few months, the school board caved when the legal bills started mounting. The ACLU has an almost unlimited budget because it can be reimbursed for bringing these "civil rights" lawsuits, but the school district must pay out-of-pocket. Desperate to end the lawsuit, school officials signed a deal written by the ACLU, which the federal judge assigned to the case then issued as a court order.

Then two things happened. First, some school employees and adult volunteers gathered for a lunch after school hours, and the principal, Frank Lay, had the athletic director, Robert Freeman, offer a prayer before the meal. Second, some students were present at an awards banquet when a clerk, Michelle Winkler, asked her husband (who is not a school employee) to offer a prayer.

The ACLU ran to U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who issued a contempt citation against all three officials. The judge referred the matter to the U.S. attorney in northern Florida (appointed by Barack Obama), who is now prosecuting all three for criminal contempt, which could carry six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Mat Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel, is now defending Principal Lay and the athletic director. Staver is working to keep them out of jail and save their retirements from being revoked by the state.

This situation is an outrage. The first event wasn't even a violation of the order. It controls "school events," and lists events involving students (such as graduation ceremonies and pep rallies). No students were present at the after-hours lunch. It was not a school event as the order defines it, so the no-prayer order doesn't apply.

Ken Klukowski

Ken Klukowski is a bestselling author and Townhall’s legal contributor covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and a fellow with the Family Research Council, American Civil Rights Union, and Liberty University School of Law.