I'm happy to report that after a 7-and-a half hour hearing before Judge Rodgers on August 24, Ms. Winkler was cleared of the civil contempt charge against her. The judge concluded that a prayer offered by Mrs. Winkler’s husband, at a voluntary gathering outside of school, did not violate the court’s order. In particular, the judge ruled that Winkler was not one of the parties in the original lawsuit against the school district, and that she did not know that the event where she asked her husband to pray was covered by the settlement in the ACLU lawsuit.
A news report detailing some evidence presented at the hearing suggests that Mrs. Wheeler may have taken a conscious chance on the "legality" of her action in having her prayer read at the event, after school district officials asked her not to include a prayer in her remarks and assumed that she would withdraw from speaking if she could not offer a prayer. Mrs. Winkler reportedly replied in an email that “I’m still on, and be unfearful of the current events, with your ‘off the record’ permission, I would like to use the prayer that I had prayed about and received from God and will suffer whatever consequences for . . . I cannot be silent as God is my very life and Christ is who I am.” According to the story, this is the prayer recited by Mr. Winkler (and if I may say so, it's beautiful and touching):
I love the way You have created each of us with a purpose which includes the need to serve one another in ways that bring encouragement and inspire each of us to help one another to excel.In light of the foregoing, Judge Rodgers may have bent backwards, at least a little, to reach the conclusion she did. If the report above is correct, Mrs. Winkler's conduct seems sufficiently conscious and overt that it would have violated the settlement order had it occurred on school grounds during school hours, with students present. That the judge determined the order inapplicable to Ms. Winkler and the event where the prayer was given, despite the deliberate expression of her Christian faith on that occasion, suggests to me that the judge was careful not to let the order impinge on school personnel's personal religious liberty more than strictly necessary to serve the order's purpose.
Tonight we celebrate some of those who are an inspiration to us and in whose deeds we have been blessed.
There is a Tree (Christ), on which grows the fruits of life: love joy and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
May we each eat freely from that tree and thereby extend that same grace and mercy to one another as You have faithfully committed Yourself of lavish on us.
Thank You, Father God - in Jesus’ holy and precious name - Amen.
It's encouraging to see judicial restraint exercised in a case like this. It's bad enough that an organization of arrogant, self-serving secularist fanatics like the ACLU, which does not represent the values this country was founded on nor those of ordinary Americans, is able to bully and threaten school employees and dictate their own terms to public school districts. In Mrs. Winkler's case, they overreached and had their hands slapped, ever so gently. But two victims remain in their cross-hairs. Principal Lay and Athletic Director Freeman must face the court on September 17 on charges of criminal contempt--for which they could be jailed and fined for invoking the name of God on school grounds during school hours, while some students may have been present. We can only pray--silently, if we happened to be public school employees--that Judge Rodgers will, or can, similarly restrain the atheo-fascists in their case.