Edward Nathaniel, III, a pastor of two churches who moonlighted as a bus driver in Minnesota, was fired last week for praying with his student passengers.
According to Nathaniel, 49, he never forced the students to pray.
“I ask[ed] the students would they like to pray, and if they like to pray, then they can lead prayer themselves and then I will pray. [On] a couple of routes, I had children that chose not to pray and that was fine.”
Nathaniel told Gawker that his morning prayer routine began after the last student boarded the bus and lasted for about seven minutes. He said that each person could pray if they wanted to pray, he only wanted to give students something “positive” and “constructive” to go to school with.
Nathaniel’s firing came as a result of complaints that the school district was receiving; most of the passengers on his bus came from Muslim families. He acknowledged that he was previously warned by the district to discontinue prayer but he did not. He says:
“They are trying to take away every right the Christian has to express our Christian belief in this supposed-to-have-been Christian nation.”
According to officials, Nathaniel does not have a right to pray with students. Teresa Nelson, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union says that Nathaniel is in violation of the First Amendment and should not have led the students in prayer. She says:
“The school bus is a captive audience. When he is driving the bus he is acting like a school official and he does not have the right to proselytize or promote religion in that context.”