Religious freedom still a pipe dream, Texas ACLU says - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Religious freedom still a pipe dream, Texas ACLU says

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Kynndal Teel loved being on the swim team at Kingwood Park High School and was darn good too.  She still has the awards to prove it.

But an awards banquet went awry when her coach asked her to lead everyone in prayer.

"I felt uncomfortable and I didn't want to do it, so I went to the bathroom and someone else did it.  We complained," Kynndal said.

She said her complaint was limited to just this incident and they wanted to remain anonymous, but the situation snowballed.

"Kids would harass me at swim meets and at one meet, I got out of the pool and a kid dropped to his knees and said God told him to pray right there," she said.

The harassment spilled over on Facebook.  Her mom, Toni Teel, said the school did little to protect her and it took a toll on Kynndall and the whole family.

"My daughter suffered through depression," Toni said.  "She gave up swimming and graduated early and is now in college courses."

That's why the American Civil Liberties Union invited them to tell their story when they released their new report.

The Texas ACLU said it receives roughly 500 religious freedom complaints a month, most of them about schools.  Some kids are prevented from expressing their beliefs, usually through dress codes, or schools impose religious views on them.

"Cases like ‘Sante Fe v. Doe' taught us that no where is it more important to prevent the state from overstepping their bounds than in public schools," TXACLU policy and legal director Rebecca Robertson said.

In that case, the US Supreme Court ruled the district couldn't allow students to vote to have a prayer at football games but according to the report, the ruling is routinely ignored by districts across the state.

"This issue is about the safety of our children; it's about safeguarding our family values; it's about assuring that no one comes between our children and their parents," TXACLU Executive Director Terri Burke said.

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