Monday, March 25, 2013

School Bans Jesus from Prayers: Atheists Threaten

Despite citizens' support for continued student-led prayer opening school board meetings in Pickens County, South Carolina, the board narrowly voted to stricken the name of Jesus from prayers, now only to be read by the board members.  However, because there will still be prayer of some kind, the change may not avoid a threatened lawsuit by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation over the long-standing public display of Christianity at the meetings.

For background, read Prayer Returns to Mississippi Schools: New Law and also read Missouri Votes to Bring Prayer Back to School, Countering Atheists as well as Prayer in America: Hidden Faith, or Public?

UPDATE 6/6/13: Lord's Prayer at Pickens County Graduation

 -- From "Pickens County schools change policy on prayer" by Nikie Mayo, Anderson (SC) Independent Mail 2/25/13

Prayers said at Pickens County school board meetings will no longer be led by students and will no longer mention the name of Jesus, according to a policy narrowly approved Monday night.

The Pickens County Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to change its practice on prayer, three months after the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action against the school district if it did not end the tradition of allowing a student-led invocation at each meeting of trustees.

The organization that questioned the district’s prayer practice is not satisfied with the measure approved Monday night and will weigh its legal options, said foundation attorney Patrick Elliott.

Hundreds of parents attended a trustees’ meeting in Pickens County last month to urge school officials to keep student-led prayers in meetings. But the school district’s lawyers said they weren’t sure the practice — if it continued unchanged — could survive a challenge in court.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "[Final] Vote expected tonight on Pickens school board prayer" by Julie Howle, Staff Writer, Greenville News 3/25/13

[School] District spokesman John Eby has said that as long as the board’s policy complies with state law regarding legislative prayer, the state Attorney General’s office would be obligated to defend it.

An opinion from the state Attorney General’s office said, “While it is a close question, and the issue has not yet been squarely decided in this Circuit, it is our opinion that a court would likely conclude that the Marsh (v. Chambers) exception for deliberative bodies applies to a school board.”

If given final approval, the policy in Pickens County would mean a nonsectarian prayer would be given by a board member rotating from meeting to meeting. It would be a change from the previous practice of student-led prayers, which could be sectarian.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Board votes in favor of non-sectarian prayer" by Billy Cannada, Staff Writer, Pickens Sentinel 2/26/13

Prayer will continue at Pickens County School Board meetings, but not as many local residents had hoped.

“We don’t want a non-sectarian prayer. There’s no point to that,” Pickens County resident Laurel Maco said. “We’re willing to stand up for what we believe in Pickens County. We’ve already taken prayer out of the school, and [the school board meetings] used to be a wonderful opportunity for students to stand up and pray. Everyone wanted it to remain a student-led prayer.”

“I’m a pastor today and I’m a product of child prayer,” Pickens County resident Steven Kelly said. “I can’t understand at all why we would even have to have a meeting like this. There’s no question in my mind that prayer must stay in school.”

“To my knowledge there has been no lawsuit that has been filed,” Pickens County Resident Wayne Dickard said. “If a suit comes, you have to deal with it then, but we’re letting an outside entity dictate what goes on in Pickens County, which I think is wrong.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.