Florida third grader objects to prayers in her public school curriculum (VIDEO)
At just 8, Emarie Wakefield is an outspoken human rights advocate. She has her own Facebook page where she stands up for LGBT rights, homeless youth outreach and volunteerism. Now she's speaking out against her public school lessons — which include Christian prayers.
Emarie is a third grader being homeschooled using a public school virtual curriculum. She and her family object to prayers being used in the lessons. "I love poetry. I mean, it's a great way to express your feelings," says Emarie. But she doesn't feel that the Christian prayers in her lesson book are right.
"She has not opened that book since the first lesson when it instructed her to read a passage from the Bible," Emarie's mom Rachel Spillers told NBC-2. "Public school is not a place for religious instruction of any kind. We think it should be out of the curriculum for everyone so that there's equality for everyone." The family identifies as Agnostic Humanist.
Equality is one of Emarie's passions. "We need to make sure everybody's treated equally," she says. "It should be legal for people to be with who they love. Everybody should have the same rights." Her Facebook page shows her participating in peaceful protests. She posts about anti-bullying and opportunities for families to volunteer.
When Emarie's local news station shared one of the prayers that the family objects to, responses were mixed. "This is why society is the way it is, because God has taken a back seat!" said Rebecca Lampley. "Such a Shame... I support God in schools!"
"I have to agree religion of any denomination should not be taught in public schools," said Theresa Bourg Pierce. "There are too many different denominations and beliefs. If you are going to teach one, teach them all."
The Lee County School District responded to Emarie's concerns with the following statement. "The passage must be studied for its literary, cultural, or historical value. The instruction should not be devotional or doctrinal."
Photo credit: NBC-2.com
Unless the virtual curriculum is teaching kids about texts from other religions and cultures, this is probably a total cop-out. Those who want God in public schools usually have only one religion in mind — not the true notion of freedom of religious expression, which would include any religion from Islam to Scientology.
My third grader has strong feelings, but they're mostly about Pokemon and how often he's allowed to play video games. It would be amazing to me if he had strong opinions on social issues. I think Emarie's a brave little girl with a bright future ahead of her, and it's wonderful that her parents are supporting her as she questions the way her public school district wants to educate her.