First Grader In Georgia Bullied By Teachers Until He Agreed To Join Class Prayer

Having been born and raised in Georgia, I can attest to the fact that folks in this part of the country take their religion very seriously. Too seriously at times, in my opinion. And this story is the perfect example of that.

A lawsuit was recently settled in which teachers at Swainsboro Primary School basically coaxed, cajoled, and finally bullied a first grader until the child agreed to participate in daily school prayer.


Keep in mind this child came from a family that was non-religious, and isn’t prayer in public schools supposed to be illegal as per numerous Supreme Court rulings?

Two students, one in kindergarten and the other a first-grader, were identified in the suit as Jamie and Jesse Doe. They brought the forced prayers to the attention of the parents, identified as John and Jane Doe, in August 2014. John Doe notified the school that teacher-led prayers were a violation of the constitutional rights of his family.

But rather than stopping the prayers, the Doe children were told to sit in the hallway during class prayer time. Jesse, who was in first grade, told John and Jane Doe what happened, saying the teacher used “her mean voice” when she told the child to leave her classroom so she could lead the other students in prayer.

The Doe parents took their youngest child out of school when the child repeatedly talked about feeling uncomfortable as a result of the daily classroom prayers. Jesse Doe continued to attend first grade at the school.

The parents also contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organization sent a letter to school officials, making it clear that the teachers’ actions were violating the rights of the Doe family. According to the lawsuit, an attorney for the school sent a response letter, asserting that the school superintendent had “talked with the principal of the primary school and taken steps to stop the conduct.”

But that was simply not true. And court documents show that teachers and school employees continued to “organize, participate in, and endorse prayer to their students, including Jesse.”

Additionally, another teacher would not allow Jesse to participate in recess. According to legal documents from the case, the teacher wanted to:

“Talk to Jesse about her personal conception of the Christian god. She spent almost the entire recess period explaining her personal views on Christianity’s god: that God loves Jesse and that God made the world.”

That same teacher also told the first grader that he should not listen to his mother because:

“(She) is a bad person for not believing in God.”

Shortly after the case was settled, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued this statement:

“We’re pleased that the Emanuel County Schools has taken action to correct the egregious constitutional violations that were taking place in its classrooms. No devotions and religious practices should take place in public schools, and no small child should ever be pressured to take part in such illegal practices. More than 50 years of clear Supreme Court precedent bar such coercive conduct, because religion in schools is divisive and builds walls between children.”

This article was originally published by the same author at

6 thoughts on “First Grader In Georgia Bullied By Teachers Until He Agreed To Join Class Prayer

  1. I’m not sure the decision was decisive enough. I think the two teachers in question should have their teaching licenses suspended for one year and have to do a major research paper on the meaning of religious freedom in America, including the psychological and legal aspects, to be graded by a (or some) non-involved university professor/s. Getting at least a ‘B’ on the papers should be a prerequisite for regaining their licenses. To be fair and lenient to them, if they finish their paper early and get an ‘A’, they may apply to have their teaching licenses restored.

    If this seems draconian to you, think of the emotional damage to the very young children. Their (all the children’s) needs must always be primary. If they cannot understand or accept that, they should find a new line of work.

    • I agree that punitive action is required, but much more than a slap on the wrist. Permanent suspension from teaching children in public schools is my recommendation.

  2. I can attest to the emotional damage. I was sent to catholic school for 9 years. 9 long years. There, it was not only that the teachers were allowed to push religion, it’s a primary reason our parents forced us to go there. I’m in my 60s now, and I still hold a grudge against my long-deceased parents.

    It takes over your whole life, at the age of 6. You wonder if everything is a sin. You wonder if you should die THIS INSTANT, would you go to heaven or hell. You worry for the people you love, would they be with you in heaven when you all are dead. So much emphasis on death and the supposed afterlife. Everything that happens in this life only matters in light of getting into heaven.

    They make you feel so guilty, all the time. Jesus died on the cross because YOU didn’t pick up your toys! You didn’t really want to go to church last Sunday because it was horrible and boring. You didn’t say anything, but god knows all of your thoughts and thinking bad things about church is a SIN! There is no escaping their religious craziness.

    Remember, they start in on you at the age of 5 or 6. Religion is child abuse.

  3. I chose to leave religion out of my children’s lives. I think religion is an extremely personal choice, and that if a child wants to learn about religion, they should be allowed to explore, on their own. Nobody has the right to force religion down anyone else’s throat. What is that saying? “Religion is like a penis? You have every right to be proud of it, but don’t take it out and shake it in my child’s face?”

  4. meanwhile, just a few minutes up the road in Vidalia GA, the First Baptist Church youth pastor is being sued for sexually assaulting boys for years.

  5. Regular mainstream folks/organizations need to find ways to highlight the so-called “religious freedom” bills that these arrogant religious people are in favor of, & how they only seem to apply to (1) right-wing christians & ONLY (2) provide a religious cover for these groups bigotry.

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