A Florida school board decision to commemorate the National Day of Prayer in Miami-Dade County schools caused controversy when one member of the board made an exclusive truth claim, stating that “God and Jesus Christ” is the true God.
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools board voted unanimously on Wednesday to recognize Thursday, May 5, 2022, as a National Day of Prayer within schools, following Congress designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer.
Board member Christi Fraga, who introduced the resolution, said its purpose was to unite people of all faiths and encourage those who want to get together and pray to do so, according to the Miami Herald. Dozens of members of the community attended the school board’s meeting and spoke in favor of the resolution. Most who spoke were Christians.
But comments from board member Lubby Navarro upset some in attendance who were not Christians.
Navarro, who was appointed to the school board by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 and subsequently elected to the position in 2016 and 2020, told a story about how payer helped her through a difficult time last year when her daughter was in a coma.
“If it was not for the power of prayer, I would not have gotten out of there [with] my daughter alive after seven days,” Navarro recounted.
She said that by having schools recognize the National Day of Prayer, students and administrators who are also going through difficulties might be encouraged to pray and seek God for help.
“If you’re going through a crisis, take a moment to pray and ask God to help you, instead of saying ‘go home’ or instead of saying, ‘Let’s send you to your counselor,’” Navarro said.
Concluding, she said that she hopes the school board vote will “send a message to our community that we have one creator, one creator, and that is God and Jesus Christ.”
Those remarks offended Ibty Dames, a 17-year-old senior at the School for Advanced Studies Homestead.
“I’m Muslim, so listening to the whole discussion was disheartening,” she told the Miami Herald. “The fact that they just said we could all just pray together was ignorant. We all pray differently, so it’s not practical to just assume we can all come together and pray.”
Dames also said that Navarro’s suggestion that students should pray instead of going to a guidance counselor during a crisis could deter some from seeking mental health services that could help them.
Miami-Dade Schools parent Carrie Feit, an attorney who is Jewish, said that hearing a board member evoke Jesus’ name “felt like all of a sudden, you’re not in the room; you’re invisible.”
Feit said that she appreciated the conversation about uniting people of all faith backgrounds, but said the “final point that was put on it” was upsetting.
After a discussion with members of the board, Vice Chair Steve Gallon III apologized on behalf of the board, but he did not specify which comments he was apologizing for.
He said the vote to recognize the National Day of Prayer shows “a sensitivity toward all groups, all religions, all creeds, all colors, all races, all people, all children.”
“But my heart was heavy when I took a respite for a moment and heard some commentary relative to how some people were made to feel,” he added. Emphasizing that the resolution is not meant to offend, Gallon said “there were some offenses taken relative to some of the comments that were made.”
“I personally as a board member apologize,” he said.