A large group showed up in front of Lincoln Elementary School Monday night for a prayer vigil to show support for the school's approach to the observance of Christmas. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
A large group showed up in front of Lincoln Elementary School Monday night for a prayer vigil to show support for the school's approach to the observance of Christmas. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
In response to an atheist group’s complaint over religious teachings in a public school, almost 100 people showed up at a prayer vigil for teachers Monday.

The vigil at Lincoln Elementary School came after Warsaw Community Schools received a letter from Northern Indiana Atheists citing three complaints the organization received about the school. Two complaints revolved around the reading of books with a religious, Christmas theme in the classroom, and the last complaint was that a religious movie titled “The Star” was shown during a class.

Citizens organized a Facebook event titled “Prayer for Lincoln School, the district and the community.”

One of the organizers, Steffanie Hupp, spoke during the vigil, and several area pastors prayed outside of the school and into the road as attendees held glow sticks.

“We’re here because the Northern Indiana Atheists filed a complaint against three teachers. They named the teachers in the letter, made it public, complaining they were stories read at Christmastime about Jesus, about the real meaning of Christmas, or they were shown a movie ... about the meaning of Christmas. So that is the complaint that they did not separate church and state – First Amendment,” Hupp said to the crowd. “However, if you look up, even if you Google it, the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about separation of church and state.”

The school came under criticism for living out its faith, said the Rev. John B. Lowe II, pastor of New Life Christian Church and World Outreach, Warsaw.

Hupp encouraged attendees to pray for their children’s and grandchildren’s schools, as well as the rest of school district.

“When I was seeing the comments on social media from Christians kind of saying we’re defeated, I was like, ‘We’re not.’ We’re victorious in Jesus and I just wanted to come here - I used to work here - and pray for the teachers and the schools in the district and show the community and the public we’re not defeated and we are victorious in Jesus,” Hupp said. “It’s totally Jesus, it’s not me at all.”

“We kind of had it stuffed down our throats about separation of church and state, but if you read the First Amendment, separation, church and state don’t even appear in the First Amendment,” Lowe said. “What it says is Congress can’t make any laws concerning religion.”

Lowe said not to practice a person’s faith was not in the Founding Father’s thinking. It’s not so much about practicing or teaching a religion, it’s about a person expressing their religion. Lowe also said he doesn’t think a student wearing a cross shouldn’t be kicked out of school any faster than a student wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt.

“Students have the right to express their faith in class,” said attendee Paul Wright.

“We’re here to support our teachers, our administration and to get behind these people, and I hope our community will come out,” said Marlin Gross.

“Christianity is under attack,” Marlin said. “If another group would come out and do this, let’s say Muslims, if they wanted to come out and do what’s being done, it’s not disputed. But Christians need to come out of the woodwork and stand up.”

“We can’t be silent,” Angela Gross said.

“Our churches need to get involved to support our kids and our grandchildren. There’s a lot at stake here down the road,” Marlin said.

Marlin said he absolutely thinks religion should be part of our schools, saying the U.S. was built on Christianity.

“Go to the capital building and you’ll see a monument of Moses in the Senate building,” Angela said. “Our country started with God and our country still needs God and they’re trying to take it away.”

Wright said he served in the military during Vietnam and became a Christian because of his service.

Some of those in attendance vocalized their views on religion in school.

“We need to have church back in school,” Hupp said. “We have to have church back in the community. We need not church, but Jesus.”

“If you look at history and you look at statistics, when we’ve taken him out of government, it leads to the downfall of our families, our children, our family structure,” Hupp said. “I definitely think we need Jesus.”

Lowe said the Bible used to be the primary way of teaching the alphabet and reading.

“You can’t keep God out of the school – high school, elementary, middle school – because if a person has Christ in his heart, that person has God in the school,” Wright said, also saying those people should be able to express their beliefs openly to people “who may be struggling in life.”

“Our Christian values is we share what we believe. We don’t hide it,” Lowe said.

The Rev. Ken Locke thanked God for the U.S., also praying for Lincoln Elementary and the educational system.

“We need to educate our youth, obviously, but at the same time we want to educate them in truth,” Locke said.

“We pray that you strengthen the teachers in this school,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Oppel, Church of God. “Give them peace, give them strength during this turmoil.”

Oppel also prayed to make the teachers stronger and for God to put a wall around the community’s children.

The Rev. Marcus Benion of Church of God prayed the school district would be able to stay in touch with God.

Even though the focus of Monday’s event was focused on Christianity, there were moments when it didn’t.

“I really encourage you to pray for the atheists, the satanists, the unbelievers. Because if all of us here prayed for those people today, I think it would be amazing what would happen in our community,” Hupp said.

Lowe asked those attending to pray for those who brought the complaints during his prayer.

“They weren’t trying to be hurtful or harmful in anyway,” Lowe said.

“One day they will see the truth,” the Rev. Glenn Hall, of Harvest Community Church, Pierceton, during his portion of the prayer. “One day they will kneel before you.”