A dispute over prayer and government authority came to a head recently in Suffolk County, Virginia. During a heated school board meeting, community members united in reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.” Dacia Smith, a local parent, led the recitation even as the board chair, Tyron Riddick, requested police intervention.
Smith told Fox News, “I felt compelled to stand up. When I did, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ was the natural response.” She was pleasantly surprised to see many standing with her.
The catalyst for this was an earlier exchange between Angela Kilgore, another parent, and the board chair about her right to pray for the students and the school during her public comment time.
Kilgore, expressing her concerns to Fox News, said she’s been questioning the school board’s actions for a while and believes prayer is essential for the students’ welfare.
Smith and Kilgore attended the meeting to share their apprehensions about the Suffolk County School Board’s response to policies on transgender students introduced by Republican Gov. Glen Youngkin.
Dr. John Gordon, Suffolk Superintendent of Schools, stressed the importance of LGBTQ students’ well-being, while the Virginia attorney general championed parental rights.
During the meeting, Kilgore sought permission to pray. In a tense back-and-forth with Riddick, she was denied. Feeling disheartened, Kilgore organized an outdoor prayer, which Smith spontaneously supported by initiating “The Lord’s Prayer” inside the room.
In that moment, Kilgore found inspiration in Smith’s courage, saying it turned a challenging situation into a beautiful one. Smith, emphasizing her faith’s role in her life, said she wasn’t afraid, even when faced with police intervention.
Legal discussions have now ensued over this incident. First Liberty Institute and Founding Freedoms Law Center have jointly addressed a letter to the Suffolk County School Board, advocating for Kilgore’s right to public prayer.
The Founding Freedoms Law Center (FFLC), now representing Kilgore, confirmed receiving a response from the school board. However, they have not disclosed its content as they prepare their counter-response.
Josh Hetzler, spokesperson for FFLC, commented, “The Supreme Court has consistently emphasized that government bodies cannot discriminate against religious expressions. It’s disheartening to see the Suffolk School Board not recognizing this.”
Riddick expressed his prayer support during the controversial board meeting, albeit not in public. Although he didn’t respond to Fox News about the letter from Kilgore’s legal team, his campaign bio suggests solid Christian values. It mentions his belief “in the significance of family” and describes him as “a devoted Christian actively imparting these values to the youth.”
Smith found it ironic: “Yet he didn’t permit the prayer at the meeting. That’s intriguing.