School District Must Pay For Harassment Over Prayer

Two families in Delaware have settled a lawsuit with a public school district over school-sanctioned religious activities that will require the school to pay an undisclosed monetary award.

Mona Dobrich and her children faced hostility when they spoke out against Christian prayer and proselytism in the Sussex County schools. The harassment of the Dobriches, who are Jewish, got so bad that the family had to move to Wilmington. (The other plaintiffs were anonymous.)

The New York Times reported that the settlement “mandates that within 30 days the district has to amend its religion policy to clarify what practices are constitutional.” The district is to provide a “detailed list of ‘real world examples’” to staff members and parents, including “situations like prayer before sports events and the distribution of religious materials at schools.”

The Times article continues, “The accord stipulates that school officials may not organize prayer at graduation. People will also be able to complain anonymously about violations about religious liberty or any other policies.”

The Dobriches put up with Christian prayers at school events for many years. The last straw came in 2004 when a minister told seniors and their families at daughter Samantha’s graduation that Jesus was the only way to the truth. The Dobriches asked the school board to respect the separation of church and state, and when word got out, the community reacted with hostility.

“As news of the request spread, many local Christians saw it as an effort to limit the free exercise of religion, residents said,” The Times reported. “Anger spilled onto talk radio, in letters to the editor and at school board meetings attended by hundreds of people carrying signs praising Jesus.”

After the family received threats, Mrs. Dobrich decided to move with her son Alex, then 11, to Wilmington. Her husband, Marco, stayed in Sussex County to keep his job.