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Mother now praying silently on Concord High campus

Last modified: 9/10/2013 3:50:02 PM
Lizarda Urena has resumed her morning trips to Concord High School to pray for the safety of the students, but she is now praying in silence after school officials told her this summer she would have to stop.

Urena, the mother of two students, returned to campus last week and has been signing in as a visitor and staying for 10 to 15 minutes every morning, said David Bates, a former state representative from Windham who has championed Urena’s right to pray on campus. Last Tuesday, Bates went with Urena to the school, where the two signed in at the main office and then went to the “outdoor classroom” at the school’s front entrance where they prayed in silence. Urena did not return a request for comment yesterday.

Her daily prayers to protect the school began in February after bullets were found in a school toilet. Urena stood on the top of the steps outside the school’s auditorium and recited Bible verses as students walked into school, but she did not engage directly with students.

Her praying got to a point where it could have looked like the school was promoting a specific religion, Superintendent Chris Rath explained to the school board last week. In July, high school Principal Gene Connolly met with Urena and said she couldn’t pray on campus this fall.

“It’s that fine line between what is private and what is public,” Rath said.

When news that Connolly planned to ask Urena to stop praying on campus became public, Bates contacted Urena and helped her obtain legal representation from the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her attorney, Matthew Sharpe, said yesterday that based on his conversations with Bates, it appears the issue between Urena and the school has been resolved. He has not spoken directly with anyone from the school district. His organization argued that as long as the school has a neutral policy in place that allows parents to be on campus for a variety of reasons, Urena should be allowed to pray there.

“That’s really what we were looking for in all of this, is for her to be allowed back on campus, (and) for her to be able to pray before the school day,” Sharpe said.

But school administrators have not made a definitive decision as to whether Urena can or cannot pray on campus. Instead, they will monitor her actions on a daily basis to see if they are in line with the campus visitor and religious policies, Rath said.

“We continue to work with her on a regular basis about how she can come and go from the high school in ways that respect both her ideas and our ideas,” Rath said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)


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