HOLLISTER, Mo. – Area students are praying in support of Hollister Public Schools, following a letter sent to the school district from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The letter was sent after an online video featuring a local youth minister, from the religious organization “K-Life,” leading dozens of students in prayer during a lunch period.
“It doesn’t matter if that was requested by a student,” says Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney, Patrick Elliott, “that was an outside adult leading the prayer.”
Elliott says the letter called for Hollister to stop adult-led prayer in school and to no longer allow youth ministers to have access to students during the school day.
The letter not only caused controversy, it sparked support from students in neighboring schools on social media.
Pictures of student-led prayers with the hash tags like “pray with Hollister” have been shared hundreds of times online.
KOLR 10 was unable to speak with Hollister superintendent Brian Wilson on camera, but he said during a phone conversation that he see the situation at a “non-issue.”
He said the minister in the video went beyond school policy, and after speaking with him, doesn’t expect it to happen again.
However, Elliott says his organization doesn’t believe that address the overall problem.
“Youth pastors have had unrestricted access to students during the school day,” he says, “to be able to befriend [students], and ultimately recruit them for their religious groups.”
Wilson said Hollister will continue to have an “open” lunch period for the community – providing access to parents, college representatives and ministers going forward.
“At this point it’s unresolved,” says Elliott, “we’ve been talking with the parents [in Hollister] and considering our legal options.”