National organization warns school following 'family circle' video
MISSAUKEE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- The Lake City community is responding after the school recently removed a video of what they called a family circle from social media.
It was an event at their football field in August, where coaches, players, and fans came together to hold hands in support of the coach's young daughter Harper, who is in the hospital.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says it was a religious event on school grounds, making it unconstitutional, and to avoid any costly litigation the school agreed to take down the video of it.
“The community being as small as it is, it really took some traction,” said Bruce DeBoer, owner of the Tasty Treat.
All throughout Lake City are #HarperStrong signs.
They're supporting the Lake City football coach's daughter, who is currently fighting a serious illness in the hospital.
But the support has gone beyond signs, with a so-called family circle happening at the school's football field.
“The school district can get involved in a number of ways but if it involves sponsoring religion they can't be involved,” said Freedom From Religion Foundation Legal Fellow, Colin McNamara.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says the family circle involved a prayer over the loud speaker, which is unconstitutional for a public school.
“The first amendment establishment clause forbids government actors from endorsing religion,” said McNamara. “They’re required to be neutral with respect to religion. They cannot endorse or promote it in anyway.”
Community members say they're frustrated.
“Outside factors should stay out of our community,” said DeBoer. “At that point in time this was to help a young girl everyone supported it.”
On Friday, the school announced they removed the video of the family circle from social media.
The statement said, “But since our attorneys have advised us that in this situation we may not act on the basis of our personal preferences, we reluctantly opted to remove the posting."
But the community says that won't stop them from showing their support.
“We pray for the young girl,” said DeBoer. “We hope that she gets better soon because for anybody to be ill like that is one thing but for a little child it goes a lot deeper.”
McNamara says the Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds the community's support, and the school is free to show their support in many ways, as long as religion isn't involved.
While the Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent several warning letters to Lake City Area Schools, they say they are not pursuing a lawsuit right now.