School bus driver George Nathaniel III fired for refusing to stop leading kids in prayer on bus

George Nathaniel III
George Nathaniel III

George Nathaniel III is a pastor at two Minneapolis churches, Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church. He was also a bus driver for Durham School Services, a company that provides busing services for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.

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But Nathaniel was fired from his bus driving gig late last month. The reason? Despite being warned, he refused to stop leading the kids riding his bus in prayer.

"I'm a preacher and that's what I do," Nathaniel told WCCO. "I ask the students 'would they like to pray?' and if they like to pray then they can [pray] themselves and then I will pray."

Though Nathaniel says no parents complained to him, the district contacted Durham School Services and told them to get Nathaniel to stop it. But he wouldn't, and so on October 30, Durham sent him this letter:

There have been more complaints of religious material on the bus as well as other complaints regarding performance. In accordance with the previous final written warning you received, your employment is hereby terminated.

Nathaniel argues that being fired for praying for the safety and well-being of the kids riding his bus is wrong. Channeling Bradlee Dean, he told 'CCO, "They are trying to take away every right the Christian has to express our Christian belief in this supposed-to-have-been Christian nation."

Though some employment law experts think Nathaniel might actually have a case -- after all, he wasn't forcing anyone to pray -- Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, told the Star Tribune his conduct was unconstitutional.

"The school bus driver has the right to pray on his own time, but when he has a captive audience of kids on a school bus, that would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," she said.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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