Youve Got Prayer in Your Mail

The prayer police aren't just after students. School employees are also fair game. LaDonna DeVore, a receptionist in the administrative offices of Highland Park Independent School District in Dallas, Texas, sent a personal group e-mail message from her office computer that included, God forbid, President Bush's National Day of Prayer Proclamation. DeVore's accompanying note said, "The following proclamation by our president is an incredible statement by the leader of the free world, and I encourage you to pass this on to your friends and colleagues to set the stage for the National Day of Prayer this Thursday, May 2."

According to a school administrator, the e-mail violated the district's policy of banning e-mail messages for "commercial, for-profit purposes, political purposes, religious worship, or proselytizing." School officials admonished DeVore over the "inappropriateness" of the e-mail and told her that further violations could result in discontinuance of her e-mail privileges. The school district had no problem with its employees sending non-work-related messages over its email system, including jokes, secular messages of encouragement, event invitations, and chain messages. But forwarding a national day of prayer proclamation from the president of the United States was strictly forbidden. After the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) brought a lawsuit on DeVore's behalf in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, the school agreed to amend its communications policy to remove the provisions prohibiting "religious worship or proselytizing.'

The district admitted that the religious content of the e-mail was constitutionally protected. DeVore's attorney put this case in perspective. "All this individual did, in effect, was distribute the text of the president's message, and the school district is saying that raises serious constitutional issues," said ACLJ attorney Stuart J. Roth. "She's just passing on the president's proclamation. He's our president; he's a government employee, just like she is."

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