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Organization alleges Oak Grove District violating constitutional rights with prayer in schools

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OAK GROVE, Mo. -- One metro school district is coming under fire after a parent complained that the schools are violating students' constitutional rights.

The Oak Grove School District recently received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, alleging the school district has broken several laws in regard to separation of church and state.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said an Oak Grove parent contacted them with several complaints -- things such as prayers before faculty meetings, teaching creationism, and Bible verses posted on bulletin boards, among other things.

FOX4 spoke with several parents Monday who didn't want to be identified, but most said they're fine with the district doing these things.

But some aren't OK with handing out religious materials -- something the letter also alleges.

The district's superintendent didn't expect to be in this position.

"Was a little surprised that it was an outside organization from a different state that was concerned about what we were doing in our schools," Dr. Bryan Thomsen said.

In a statement to FOX4, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said:

"You cannot have freedom of religion in a country that doesn't have freedom from government-endorsed religion. FFRF wrote a letter of complaint to Oak Grove Schools in order to protect the freedom of religion and right of conscience of all district students and families. Each issue outlined in our letter involves instances of public school administrators or teachers promoting religion while acting on behalf of the government, which is illegal.

"By correcting the issues identified by our local complainant, the school district will be upholding the Constitution, not violating the freedom of speech or religion of anyone. District teachers and administrators remain free to practice any religion they wish while acting as private individuals, but must not turn a public school into a church, thereby ostracizing minority religious and nonreligious students and their families."

Thomsen said if needed, the district is willing to make changes.

"If for some reason we're not, we'll make adjustments accordingly. But at this point in time we feel we're following those guidelines and trying our best to educate kids," Thomsen said.

The superintendent said the district is looking at things internally and working on drafting a response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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