Students exercise religious rights at lunch

Yasmeen Elsawaf

While many race for the cafeteria to get a good spot in the lunch line, sophomore Daniel Tenbusch and his friends slow down and reconnect with their religious faith.

Every day at the beginning of second lunch, the group of approximately nine students walk to the palm tree planter located between the pavilion and the cafeteria and spend a few minutes praying and reminding themselves of God’s place in their lives.

“Most of us are in the same youth group,” said Tenbusch, a sophomore. “ A couple of them are friends of Ashleigh [Rabel] that she brought in just because  they eat lunch with her. We all just came together.”

All of the prayer group members attend Ascension Catholic Church and participate in a youth group there. They also have a West Shore Facebook group, which is where the idea got its start.

“Well, I think it was originally Amber [Schmidt]’s idea,” Tenbusch said. “We have a West Shore youth group, like the kids in the youth group from West Shore Facebook group and we just post different ideas there.  Amber posted that idea so we all got together.”

According to school policy, any student can participate in religious activities as long as they are not school-sponsored or teacher led. The activities also must be started by a student and totally optional.

“As long as they are student-initiated, it’s fine,” Assistant Principal Jim Melia said. “We never make anyone participate in religious activities. With Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for example, if we have a guest speaker for that club, then we have students voluntarily attend. We can’t force them to participate or have a teacher lead them in prayer.”

Students frequently voice their religious opinions through T-shirts with religious messages or at unsponsored events such as the “See You at the Pole” prayer held nationally on the fourth Wednesday of September.

“People are pretty open. I’ve seen people praying and doing what they like,”  history teacher Robert Sarver said. “As longs as it’s not school-sponsored, it’s all right with my understanding of the law. It’s fine with me.”

Tenbusch voiced optimism when asked about the possibility of more members. “We would love that,” he said. “As many people or just anyone who wants to be in it. It’s not just a youth group thing.”

By Natalie Brown