VA Woman Wins Fight to Pray at School Board Meeting After Initial Prayer Was Shut Down

A Virginia woman was permitted to pray at her local school board meeting after initially being denied that right by its members.

Angela Kilgore offered to pray during the remainder of her public comment time at a Suffolk Public Schools Board meeting in August. 

She wanted to pray “for Suffolk Public Schools” and its board members but was prevented from doing so by Board Chair Tyron Riddick.

“I apologize, we can’t do that,” he replied. 

“Why can’t we?” Kilgore said. “I like to pray for our students in our school.”  

In a video of the school board meeting, the tense exchange began to escalate. 

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Kilgore invited those in attendance to join her to pray after the meeting, but instead, attendees decided to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Riddick promptly ordered security officers to clear the room. 

After the meeting, Founding Freedoms Law Center (FFLC) and First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the Suffolk Public Schools Board requesting officials “update their public comment policies to reflect the right of religious citizens to express their viewpoint without fear of censorship.”

The initial letter went unanswered, but a second letter sent by FFLC demanded the board allow Kilgore to pray. 

“After our attorneys were able to fully communicate the constitutional issues at play, the board finally agreed to allow Ms. Kilgore to pray during her public comment time,” a FFLC spokesperson said. 

The request was granted and Kilgore was allowed to pray at the November 9 meeting. 

Kilgore opened up her address explaining that at several meetings she was “humiliated, escorted out, or kicked out.”

“It seems to be the standard of this board that if you don’t like what you are hearing, then you kick us out,” she expressed. 

“… In August, I was led by the Holy Spirit to pray for our children, schools, and this board, the chair… shut me down, but God moved,” Kilgore continued. 

She then used the rest of her time to pray for “wisdom” for board members and to help protect parental rights.

“Heavenly Father, we ask that you would grant our school board wisdom as they seek to shape our laws in a rapidly shifting and increasing polarized topic,” Kilgore prayed. 

She added, “We pray for your mercy on our nation. Please help our leaders to issue good guidance, particularly regarding education in schools, and may they be courageous in pursuing what is right and just rather than caving into the demands of ideological pressure groups.”

Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation and its legal arm FFLC, said in a statement that the district’s change of heart was a win for religious freedom. 

“We are pleased that the Suffolk School Board eventually acknowledged that they were wrong to discriminate against Angela Kilgore in denying her the ability to express religious speech,” said Cobb. “The government doesn’t get to disfavor or disallow religious speech over non-religious speech.” 

“I’m glad they got the message and that I had the opportunity to pray,” said Kilgore. “In my comments, I shared, ‘You were wrong by shutting me down. You know it. I know it, and now everyone will know it.'” 

“I decided that I could not stay silent and just go away because the right of free speech including prayer is simply too important.” 

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