- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2000

A slain Columbine student was targeted for death because of her belief in God and prayer, her father said yesterday while calling for the right to pray in schools during a rally on the Mall.

"Legislation and politicians are not where the answers lie the answer lies in prayer and our youth," said Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the 13 students shot and killed in the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., last year.

Mr. Scott said that in a videotape prepared by the shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the boys said they planned to kill Rachel because of her love of Christianity.

The "Take a Stand" rally was organized by Truth Broadcasting, a South Carolina-based organization that wants to see prayer rights restored to schools.

The three-day rally was cut to two days by Friday's heavy rains, organizers said.

Despite organizers' expectations that "thousands of Christians and supporting organizations" would converge on the Mall, the rally attracted far fewer.

"I am a little disappointed by the response," said Linda Furr, director of Truth Broadcasting. She attributed the poor turnout to a lack of publicity.

Petitions were available at a booth where people could ask elected officials to "return the right of prayer and freedom of personal religious expression to schools."

Students were expected to take the petitions to the Supreme Court steps after the rally, Mrs. Furr said.

Volunteer Carolyn Eudy estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people had signed the petition since Saturday.

Organized prayer was removed from public schools in 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled in Abington vs. Schempp that reverential Bible reading and prayer recitation in schools violated the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of religion.

The Supreme Court ruled against school graduation prayers in 1993 in Lee vs. Weisman. In November, the court agreed to hear Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe, which challenges student-led, student-initiated prayer.

Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has taken a stand against prayer in school, said he was happy that members of the "Take a Stand" rally were in town to voice their views. However, he added, "the demonstrators want to impose their prayers … and we do not support that."

Mrs. Furr said that while she supported the Bible, "the school should work with people of different religions. We have to respect one another."

She said lack of prayer was behind the rise in violence in schools in recent years.

"Prayer takes the chaos out… . Our children have not been taught that life is precious," Mrs. Furr said.

Jenny Kellogg of West Virginia, who participated in a pageant that was part of the rally, said she sends her three children to a Catholic school because, unlike public schools, it includes prayer.

"I see a spiritual void among the students in public schools in our area," said her husband, Jeff Kellogg.

Ann Donio from New Jersey, who strolled past the rally with her husband, David Enscoe, and their two children, Jane, 5, and David, 2, said she believed that the rise in violence among children had nothing to do with praying in schools.

"It just reflects the rise in violence in society," Mrs. Donio said, adding that she was Catholic. "Our Founding Fathers were wise when they created the First Amendment," she said.

Her husband added that while he believed in prayer, "I am not for school-sanctioned prayer. People can pray in their hearts if they want to."

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