School Worker was Told She Could be Fired if She Offered to Pray for Someone Again

Toni Richardson

By Tony Perkins Published on November 15, 2017

It was a small sentence — ”I will pray for you” — but it meant big trouble for Cony High School technician Toni Richardson. When Richardson offered that comfort to another Christian on staff in private, she was hauled before school officials and warned not to utter a word about her faith again.

District officials kicked off the controversy last year by telling Richardson that she could “face discipline or dismissal in the future” if she expressed her faith so openly again. “I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a co-worker I would pray for them,” she told reporters at the time.

First Liberty Institute’s Jeremy Dys, who filed a complaint on Richardson’s behalf, explained that it had been a hard 12 months for Richardson since then. “This entire year Toni has had to self-censor herself, making sure she’s not using religious language. … She’s even had to refrain from wearing jewelry that has a cross on it, because if someone were to overhear this private conversation or see that religious imagery round her neck, then she could face discipline or even be terminated.”

Fortunately, after a yearlong clash over religious freedom, school officials have apparently had second thoughts about their attacks. Late last week, our friends at First Liberty proclaimed victory, announcing that the district had officially walked back its threat to Richardson and issued a new memorandum giving her and others the right to make faith-based statements — without fear of school discipline.

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Augusta administrators said they recognized “the rights of employees to hold and express religious beliefs and it never was our intent to unlawfully restrict those rights.”

It’s a sad commentary on America, Family Research Council’s Travis Weber pointed out, that trying to encourage someone by telling them you’re “praying for them” would even draw a complaint. But it’s also an encouraging example for Christians about what we can accomplish when we stand up with courage and conviction.

Richardson didn’t back down when the forces of political correctness came knocking. She knew her rights and demanded they be respected. We applaud First Liberty Institute and Richardson for their persistence. Let this be a warning to other school districts that try to intimidate teachers and other staff members of faith. Christians will fight back, and despite the claims of the left to the contrary, the Constitution is on their side.

To hear the story from Richardson, check out this interview we did on Washington Watch.


This was originally published in Tony Perkins’ Washington Update, which is written with the aid of Family Research Council senior writers.

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

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  • Trilemma

    I had no doubts that she would win. What she did is clearly protected by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment as explained in the GUIDELINES ON RELIGIOUS EXERCISE AND RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION IN THE FEDERAL WORKPLACE published by the Clinton administration on August 14, 1997 and used by subsequent administrations and other government agencies.

    clintonwhitehouse2. archives. gov/WH/New/html/19970819-3275. html

  • Aliquantillus

    It is high time for Christians to be as aggressive about their religious rights as for example LBGTQs are about their so-called rights of diversity. If LBGTQ immorality is protected as “diversity” in today’s world, the time has come to claim religious rights on the same basis of “diversity” and the right to be different. We can learn a lot from the relentlessness of the homosexualists. We should stop playing the nice and polite persons. And more in particular, we should introduce a strategy of opposing any official we suspect of opposing religious freedom. Just as the LBGTQ mob tries to remove Christians from office, we should make it our deliberate Christian policy to remove anyone from office whom we suspect of opposing religious liberties, regardless whether he or she actually did harm us or not. The simple fact that an official has an anti-religious opnion is a threat to us, and whenever we have the opportunity of getting rid of him, we should make the effort to do so.

    • Kevin Wells

      Yeah! None of that sermon on the mount nonsense! No more pansy first century christians for us! Those guys that turned the other cheek and got martyred! Not us! Let’s take a leaf from the devil’s playbook! The bible stuff is for when we get to heaven, can I get an amen?!

      Um…. no.

      • Aliquantillus

        I intend this in an evangelical spirit, that we should be, in the words of our Lord (in Mt. 10:16), “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. Enemies of religious freedom are in our modern situation enemies of the common good of society. And by going after these enemies we work for the good of society. Without organizing witch hunts or doing anything unlawful we should be suspicious and not trust government, and take efforts to remove dangerous officials.

        Remember also that St. Paul, when he was unjustly imprisoned, being a Roman citizen, publicly shamed the officials who were responsible for this: “[…] Paul said unto them: they have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out”. The Apostle stood on his rights, not in a spirit of pride and haughtiness, but because these rights had been granted by the same government which now trampled them. To be peacefully resistent and cunning in defending our constitutional rights and liberties is completely permissible. Christians often cave before being beaten, and that’s not good.

        • Kevin W

          Very good. I’m right beside you on that score.

  • Elizabeth Litts

    Good for Ms Richardson! We need to stand and be counted. No more backing down.

  • Dean Bruckner

    The right response to those very first communist warnings from the school district would have been “I’ll pray for you!”

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