'It's gonna be a hard movement to stop': Following AU backlash, Pike County students plan to "Pray Anyway"

Published: Oct. 14, 2019 at 6:40 PM EDT
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Students in Pike County are pushing back following a recent letter from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which asked the Pike County Schools District to remove "prayer lockers" from its schools.

The lockers, designated for anonymous prayer requests, quickly gained attention on social media at the beginning of the school year. However, not all of that attention was favorable.

The AU reached out to Pike County Schools Superintendent Reed Adkins to demand that the district remove the prayer locker from Pike Central High School after receiving a complaint from someone in the community. The letter suggested that faculty involvement was in play in the organization of the school's prayer locker.

Adkins notified the schools in the district, asking that they remove their designated prayer lockers in order to comply with the law because it seemed that the projects were not entirely student-led.

Now some students at East Ridge High School are taking the project in a new direction with a challenge from a local church.

Elkhorn City Baptist Church pastor Aaron Butler said he was inspired by the love of God shown by the kids in his area and wanted to help encourage them to keep pushing for what they believe. So he introduced the "Pray Anyway" campaign.

"If we can't have one (prayer locker), we'll just have 50 to 100 in every school," Butler said.

He said the campaign has nothing to do with the district or any of the faculty or staff employed by the district. It is meant to encourage students to take back the prayer locker idea.

"Instead of having one locker that is an alternative for prayer requests, now we're asking every Christian kid in Pike County - and the country - to make their locker a prayer locker," Butler said.

Some students from East Ridge High School are already on board.

"I think it's amazing. I think that this is the only way we get what we want. It's the only way that we fulfill God's plan," said sophomore Zack Mason.

Mason is not alone in that thought.

"It's our decision to do it. And it's our right to do it," said sophomore Joseph Slone. "It's the way that we believe. It's our way of life. And for somebody to just say, 'Hey, you can't do that,' and for us to be forced to abide what they say, it isn't right."

So the two say they will be joining the campaign along with some of their friends as they continue practicing what they consider not only their God-given privilege but their government-sanctioned right.

"We think that our rights are being revoked and that's our way to respond to it," said Slone.

With plans to "shine His light" through as many prayer lockers as the student body can create.

"We ain't gonna sit down- lay down- and let them do anything they want to do," said Slone.

And they believe the "Pray Anyway" campaign is their way to stand for their beliefs.

"It's gonna be a hard movement to stop," said Mason.

Superintendent Adkins said the district has no issue with allowing students to take part in the campaign because it is student-led.

"Adult involvement was the only issue," Adkins said. "As long as it is student-led and does not disrupt the educational process, we will not have a problem at all."

Magnets and other signage will soon be available for students who plan to participate. Those can be acquired from Butler at Elkhorn City Baptist Church. Butler said interested students should contact him through the "Pray Anyway" Facebook page.