Religion

Humanist Group Files Legal Action Against S.C. Public School For Prayer Practices

| by Tony Tran
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A South Carolina school district is facing legal action from the American Humanist Association after the organization complained that the district's practice of praying before elementary school graduation and holding said graduations in a Christian chapel violates separation of church and state.

"Numerous cases make clear that public schools, particularly elementary schools, must strictly maintain the separation of church and state and must not include prayer in school-sponsored events such as graduation ceremonies," said attorney with the Appiganani Humanist Legal Center, Monica Miller.

"Given that this school district has been including prayers in its elementary school graduation ceremonies since 1951, and has recently been holding the ceremonies in a Christian chapel of a Christian university," she told reporters at Greenville News, "we ask that the court grant judgement in our favor."

The Greenville School District released a statement saying that a legal counsel was reviewing the action for the district.

"The District's position and response to the American Humanist Association has been consistent," the statement read. "The law supports the District's practice that students who are selected to speak based upon neutral criteria, such as academic performance, have the First Amendment right to speak from either a religious or secular perspective."

"The law also supports the District's use of a building owned by another organization," the statement continued, "including a college affiliated with a religion, for legitimate reasons such as accommodating specatators without unconstitutionally endorsing religion."

The organization's suit against the schools notes that prayers were being held at the elementary school's graduation, which took place at a Christian chapel in North Greenville University. They also seek a "declaratory judgment that the elementary school's practices of endorsing prayer and hosting graduations in a chapel is a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause," according to the local newspaper.

Source: The Greenville News Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Rick Seidel/Flickr