The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints doesn’t hold meetings or events on Monday nights so its churchgoers can spend the evening with family, and they have put pressure on communities to do the same.
The predominantly Mormon Pleasant Grove, Utah, conceded in keeping Monday nights clear of city events, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
But civil libertarians say school officials in Provo, Utah, went too far in barring all school activities on Monday nights, according to Associated Press.
“We’re going to have to look at this because the district’s decision raises concerns about a possible unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s establishment (of religion) clause,” Utah American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Dani Eyer told the Tribune. “The question is whether the district is motivated by dictation from the church or as a practical matter of 90 percent of the people being LDS and wanting to stay home that night.”
Last October, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley issued a statement calling on schools and others to refrain from scheduling events and activities on Monday nights. According to the statement, Hinckley wanted that weeknight to be left open for church members to spend with their families.
Provo school officials balked at the notion that they made their decision because of Hinckley’s request.
Superintendent Patti Harrington said she talked to principals about keeping Monday inactivity sacrosanct at the school board’s insistence, but told AP that Hinckley’s remarks had nothing to do with it.
Other school officials said there was a public outcry to uphold Hinckley’s request after it was made.
“We realize the importance of the separation of church and state, but felt as a board that we needed to respond to the groundswell no matter where that groundswell was coming from,” Board President Richard Sheffield told the Tribune.
Provo is the only Utah County school district to ban Monday night activities, according to AP. But Alpine and Nebo have encouraged principals to make that evening activity-free as well.
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.