Bus Driver’s Struggle for the Right to Religious Freedom
George Nathaniel III, an elementary school bus driver, was fired from his job for inviting children within the bus to pray with him every morning on his routes. This activity was continued, despite his employers asking him to stop, according to local CBS reports.
Nathaniel’s opinion is that it was never right to fire a bus driver just because he prayed for the children’s safety on his routes. He used prayer on the bus because he is a pastor at Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
The controlling body of the school district in Burnsville, Minnesota, issued a complaint to his employers, Durham School Services. The employers continued to warn Nathaniel, and even offered to assign him with two new routes, which involved Metcalf Junior High School and Edward D. Neil Elementary School. Nathaniel declined the reassignment, saying “I let them know I am a pastor and I am going to pray.”
He mentioned that he never forced the children regarding the religious beliefs; rather let them choose whether they will pray or not. He explained the bus praying nature, where they start off with a song, and continue with the choice of joining in. Then, he prays and asks the children to join him. He states that it would provide the children with something optimistic and constructive while going to school.
Others believed he seemed to be conducting a small scale sermon.
A formal letter was sent to Nathaniel stating that religious materials were found in the bus, and that he is terminated from the job in accordance with the previous final warning.
Nathaniel, while stressing on his right to freedom of religion, said that the rights to his Christian belief are being taken away in what is “supposed to have been [a] Christian nation.”
Teresa Nelson, the ACLU legal director, reports that Nathaniel violated the First Amendment, where promoting religion is not allowed in a confined place such as a bus.
In a similar story breaking earlier this week, a Rutgers University bus driver has resigned, placing blame on an incident in which he prayed for a woman in a wheelchair.