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Atheist Group Asks Bellflower School Officials To Halt Prayer At Meetings

BELLFLOWER ( — Officials with the Bellflower Unified School District have been asked to stop praying before school board meetings.

The request comes from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in a letter dated Nov. 27 to school board President Laura Sanchez-Ramirez.

According to the FFRF, opening school meetings with a Christian prayer is "a serious constitutional violation" and "discriminates not only against nonbelievers, but also against any non-Christian attendees," the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.

"It's inappropriate and unconstitutional," FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said via Skype.

Gaylor said a Bellflower resident initially brought the issue to the foundation's attention.

"Students, children and their parents often have to attend these meetings, so it essentially involves a captive audience being coerced to engage in a religious ritual," she said. "We hope that this will be resolved, so that if people want to pray, they're free to stop at church to and from school board meetings."

CBS2's Bobby Kaple reports that parents are split on the prayer.

"It doesn't bother me. I'm a Christian. I like that Christ is still in school, a little bit in the school pledge and other things here and there," Dawn Petitt said.

"You know, if anybody would have a problem with it, I guess I could be one of them. They did that at a meeting I attended. I was thrown off by it," Tevis Diaz said.

The Bellflower school board did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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