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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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Prayer post removed after three days | News



On Monday, the Liberty Hill Independent School District removed a post from its Facebook page after public reaction was divided over the appropriateness of its content.

The post, entitled “20 Days of Prayer” was placed on the page by Superintendent Steve Snell on July 29, then removed three days later after it had become a lightning rod for controversy in the community.

According to Snell, the message ended up creating a polarizing effect instead of one that was galvanizing, which was the original intent.

“With everything going on in the world these days – especially with the school shooting close to home in Uvalde – with people getting ready to send their kids back to school, we thought it would be a good idea to rally the community in order to get our hearts and minds in the right place,” said Snell. “Looking back, though, it would’ve been a much better idea to put it on my personal (Facebook) page.”

Following the post’s removal, Snell posted a message that read: “There is a lot of negativity and division in our world today. The values that bind our community together are being attacked, as are public schools, teachers, and the education profession. I was searching for a means to bring our community together around our children and our schools in light of the wickedness we witnessed in Uvalde and around the nation, as well as the negativity we observe in today’s society. The purpose of 20 days of prayer was to combat all of the negativity, cover, and protect specific aspects and people of LHISD with prayer. Regardless of religion, I believe prayer works.

“It was not my intention to be political when I posted the prayer schedule I would be using for the next 20 days. Unfortunately, comments made on the LHISD social media page led to attacks on other community members. LHISD social media should promote unity rather than serve as a forum for conflict. Our postings shouldn’t add to the divide and negativity already present in the world. The post was taken down for this reason.

“I still encourage those who choose to join me over the next 20 days and follow this calendar or your own calendar. The bottom line is I believe LHISD needs your positivity, your involvement, and your prayers.

“I also think in that same spirit, we need to be kind to one another.”

As of Thursday morning, the post had received 78 comments, the overwhelming majority of which supported Snell for the original post.

The “20 Days of Prayer” had a different department of the school district highlighted for each day, including all the various categories of employees.

Snell noted Section 25.082 (d) of the Texas Education Code that provides for what is known as the “Texas Minute” – a 60-second moment of silence to take place after the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge at the outset of each school day that reads: “During the one-minute period, each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”

Additionally, the “National Day of Prayer” was established by President Harry Truman in 1952 as a spring observance after President Abraham Lincoln had enacted the fall observance in 1863 in the form of the official recognition of Thanksgiving.

The observance is aimed at all religions including, but not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism with the objective being to celebrate the diversity of demographics that comprise the American population and is required by Section 119 of U.S. Code 36 for the president to sign a proclamation each year encouraging all Americans to pray on the day, which has traditionally been the first Thursday in May.

However, Snell acknowledged once it became clear the original intent of the post had the opposite effect, he felt it was in the school district’s best interest to remove it.

“When you put something on social media, many times it becomes a back-and-forth thing – you can’t have an intelligent debate – and that’s not what our Facebook page is for,” he said. “It’s not about conservative or liberal – in Liberty Hill, we’re one big family and the post had been counterproductive to the original message. Our page can’t be a source of attack and division.”

This isn’t the first time Liberty Hill ISD has found itself in the middle of a controversy centered around religion, as in 2012, a complaint was filed with the district after Gideons International was allowed to hand out bibles at Liberty Hill Intermediate School.

Snell said there is a difference between that incident and this one.

“Everybody has the right to pray, but you can’t force it on someone,” he said. “Now, this is Steve Snell’s opinion and not the district’s, but I believe this didn’t cross that line.”

In closing, Snell said the fact modern-day society is so black-and-white, it creates a culture of division, which is regrettable.

“We live in a world of absolutes – you’re either 100 percent one way or the other – there’s no middle ground,” he said. “But, whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever, we’re all Panthers.”



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