Religion

Pickens County School Board Will Revisit Policy On Prayer At Meetings

| by Kendal Mitchell

A county school board in South Carolina will revisit its position on its prayer policy at official meetings on Tuesday.

Pickens County School Board previously tabled discussions last October about whether board members are allowed to engage in prayer while officially convened. Board members said they decided to table the issue because they think changing the policy might involve a large legal risk.

The policy would allow local ministers or other religious leaders to lead board members in prayer at meetings on a rotating basis.

“A motion is tabled to postpone an item for future consideration, not kill it,” said board member Alex Saitta. “Months have passed since that information has come back to the board. The policy deserves a simple up or down vote.”

In April 2013, the school board decided to offer non-religious prayers after a humanist group threatened to sue the school.

A year later, the Supreme Court ruled that religious prayers before official meetings do not violate the First Amendment.

"It actually struck down the fourth circuit ruling and said hey, that's not right,” Saitta said. “They went with this new rule basically saying you can not tell a pastor, the government can not tell a pastor who to pray to or how to pray."

Current prayer policy allows a private citizen to offer a nonsectarian prayer before the start of school board meetings.

A disclaimer printed on top of each meeting’s agenda states, “The view or beliefs expressed by the invocation or public comment speaker are not endorsed by the board.”

Religious leaders in the area have vocalized their support for the policy change.

“Let them practice their religion. Let them voice their opinion. I know every prayer might not be the same, but this gives the community an opportunity to have an input,” said Jimmy Burrell, Gilead Baptist Church pastor.

Sources: WSPA, The State / Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons