When Pine Creek High School freshman Chase Windebank invited a few friends to pray with him, he never imagined how that group would grow over the next three years.
This group met in an empty classroom during a free period in the middle of the school day to pray together and encourage one another in their faith.
Over time, the word spread about the group, and their numbers grew. To Chase’s surprise, by his senior year, over 90 students met in that room twice a week. Even some non-Christians attended!
What was even more surprising, however, was how the school administration reacted.
During his senior year, Chase was called into the assistant principal’s office and informed that this time of prayer violated the “separation of church and state.”
But this was a student-led time of prayer—not any kind of official school event. And attending this time of prayer was completely voluntary.
School officials told Chase that the group could only meet before or after school to pray. This limitation, which was only imposed on Chase’s group caused the thriving group of over 90 students to dwindle to just a handful within just a few weeks.
Chase knew this wasn’t right.
His prayer group was being treated differently simply because they chose to spend their time praying and discussing their faith.
That’s unconstitutional. School officials cannot treat certain student groups worse than others simply because they are religious.
That’s why Chase reached out to Alliance Defending Freedom, and we filed a lawsuit on his behalf.
Keep in mind, Chase was a senior at the time. And there were many other things besides a lawsuit to occupy his mind and his time.
But he knew he had to take a stand.
Students should have the freedom to gather and pray without fear of being punished or shut down by their school administrators. The Constitution protects this freedom, and students don’t lose those rights when they step on campus.
Chase’s school administrators needed to be reminded of this.
Eventually, the school agreed to settle the suit and allow students to pray and talk about their faith during free times during the school day.
The impact goes even further than that, though.
In early 2020, President Donald Trump invited Chase to the Oval Office to tell his story. There, the President announced several new measures to protect the religious liberties of students on American campuses. Part of the President’s guidance directed public schools to respect students’ free speech and free exercise of constitutionally protected rights.
Because of Chase’s courageous stand, the students attending his high school now—and in high schools across the country—can join together and pray during the school day without fearing punishment and unequal treatment thanks to him.
And to Chase, that makes it all worth it.