Minnesota school bus driver taken off route for leading prayers with students

A school bus driver from Minnesota has been taken off his route after he led students in prayer while working. George Nathaniel, 54, believes his constitutional religious right was violated, but the incident was apparently not a first for the beleaguered worker.

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)A school bus driver led students in prayer while driving his routes and he got in trouble at his job because of it.

Nathaniel, who is also a pastor, initiated the prayers on his school bus trips last winter. He has been working as the bus driver for the Nasha Shkola charter school since January 2017.

Students from the said school come from Christian Russian immigrant families, and Nathaniel told reporters that the kids themselves would sometimes volunteer to lead the prayer. He also said that their parents know of the practice hence he was surprised that the bus owner took him off his route last week.

Quality Care Transportation owner Muk Musa, however, told the Star Tribune that complaints reached the school about Nathaniel's activities. Apparently, some felt the pastor was forcing the kids to pray.

Nathaniel, however, denied the accusations about forcing the kids although he admitted he would like to turn people to Christianity. Four years ago, the bus driver lost his job at a different school district when he did the same practice of leading students to prayers during his bus route. Though Nathaniel defended that his prayer initiative wasn't harming the children whom he only wanted to be safe, the school district let him go.

Musa believes that the 54-year-old bus driver will not change his ways despite being previously fired and now taken off his route. Musa said, "His main focus is to influence even one person in following what he worships."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in 1962 that public school workers should not lead students in prayer. Further, the Supreme Court has also ruled that public schools must not have an official religion. In 2000, the Supreme Court also prohibited student-led prayers during school hours while using loudspeaker facilities.

A parent from Nasha Shkola, however, told reporters that he had no objections to what Nathaniel did with the kids. "As a Christian, of course I want kids to know more about Jesus, but I don't want kids or parents to be pushed," dad Art Loghinov said.