Religion

Pickens County School Board Votes to Keep Current Prayer Policy

| by Kendal Mitchell

A South Carolina county school board voted against imposing new rules regarding its prayer policy during its meetings on Monday night.

The Pickens County School Board voted 3-3 for a measure that would have allowed local ministers or religious leaders to guide school board officials in prayer during meetings. By not securing a majority vote, the policy failed to pass.

“The board will continue to begin meetings with a prayer from the chaplain's prayer book for the South Carolina General Assembly,” said a statement from the school board. “ The district will not be sending invitations to local clergy to pray.”

The school board changed its policy in 2013 after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation – a Madison-based humanist group. School board officials currently allow individuals the opportunity to say non-sectarian prayer before meetings convene.

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“I feel strongly that our current policy allows exactly what we desire -- an opportunity to pray in the name of Jesus,” said Brian Swords, chairman of the school board. “All this would do is move that down one notch in the agenda.”

Around 14 audience members spoke in favor of the school board members passing the change, which would permit religious leaders on a rotating basis to give prayer.

“We were here when it started in 2013, and so here we are in 2015,” said Jimmy Burrell, pastor of Gilead Baptist Church in Pickens. “It didn’t die in 2013, and we’re not going away.”

While the Supreme Court approved a similar case regarding rotating pastors saying prayer in New York last year, the school district’s attorney said its current prayer policy has a more solid legal foundation.

Sources: Fox Carolina, Greenville Online

Photo Credit: Greenville Online