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Minnesota pastor fired from bus route after praying with students

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A pastor who serves two churches in Minneapolis has been fired from his school bus driving route in Burnsville after leading students on the bus in prayer, the Star Tribune reports.

George Nathaniel -- a Christian pastor at Elite Church of the First Born and Grace Missionary Baptist Church -- received a separation letter from the bus company contracted by the district Oct. 30 after previous warnings to stop the prayer activities.

According to the Star Tribune, Durham School Services told Nathaniel in the letter that they received "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," the letter stated.

The pastor told the Star Tribune that he wasn't doing any harm to the students by leading them in prayer, and to be fired "for praying for the safety of the children" isn't right. He also admitted to praying with students on the bus all last year.

Nathaniel says the move is a violation of his right to freedom of speech.

Courts have found, however, that school prayer violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District communications director Ruth Dunn declined comment for the Star Tribune story, but did note that a bus route is an extension of the school day.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that it is unconstitutional for schools to encourage or lead students in prayer.

The Huffington Post recently examined the landmark ruling, and cited a Pew Research study in 2012 that found 57 percent of Americans disapproved of the ruling, while 39 were in favor of it.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case about the use of prayer at government meetings, National Public Radio reports.

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