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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

School Employee Told She Can’t Offer to Pray for Colleague

  • Veronica Neffinger
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2017 May 17
  • Comments

A staff member at a school in Augusta, Maine was recently reprimanded for telling a co-worker that she would be praying for him.

Fox News conservative commentator Todd Starnes reports on the conflict that occurred after Toni Richardson, who is employed with the Augusta School Department, said she would pray for a co-worker while he was going through a difficult time.

Richardson reportedly attended the same church as her co-worker, but sometime later they had a falling out and the co-worker used Richardson’s assertion that she would be praying for him to get her in trouble.

Richardson was then sent a letter from the school district warning her that she was not allowed to use such religious-based language when speaking with a co-worker “even if that other person attends the same church as you.”

“In the context of the ‘separation of church and state,’ this case prohibits public school-sponsored religious expression,” the letter continued. “Therefore, in the future, it is imperative that you do not use phrases that integrate public and private belief systems when in the public schools.”

Richardson turned to First Liberty Institute which took up her case.

“I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a coworker, ‘I will pray for you,’” Ms. Richardson said. “I’m afraid I will lose my job if someone hears me privately discussing my faith with a coworker.”

First Liberty Institute has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing the school district of religious discrimination. 

“What August Public Schools did by punishing Toni for discussing her faith in a private conversation with a coworker is unconscionable,” said attorney Timothy Woodcock of First Liberty. “The law is clear: employers cannot discriminate against employees who privately discuss their faith while at work.”

Starnes notes that First Liberty is very committed to their cases and that Richardson is in good hands.


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Publication date: May 17, 2017