South Carolina School District Reconsiders Prayer at Meetings

A South Carolina school district plans to relook at its policy concerning prayer at board meetings. 

On Monday night, the Pickens County School Board voted 3-2 to discuss the current prayer during next month’s meeting.

The new policy would allow local ministers to offer prayer at school board meetings on a rotating basis.

School board trustees said they want to reopen discussion about the issue in light of new information out of the state attorney general's office.

“A motion is tabled to postpone an item for future consideration, not kill it,” said trustee Alex Saitta.

Current policy states board members can say nonsectarian prayers, prayers that do not mention God, Jesus or a specific deity, at the beginning of a meeting. Members of the public are allowed to come to the meetings and pray in whatever fashion they choose.

Last September, trustees enacted a new prayer policy after receiving a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based humanist group. The letter said the school’s current policy of allowing students to deliver the opening prayer was a ‘serious constitutional violation.’

The new policy states a minister or priest can give the opening prayer ‘according to the dictates of his own conscience.’ It also states that the public invocation opportunity cannot be used to exploit, to proselytize or to disparage those of other faiths.

“Months have passed since that information has come back to the board,” Saitta said. “The policy deserves a simple up or down vote.”

Trustees said they based their policy on a similar one for the town of Greece, New York recently allowed by the US Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the Pickens County School District said the school board’s legal status differs than the town council in New York, and the Supreme Court ruling may not guarantee protection against a lawsuit. 

Sources: Aiken Standard, Greenville News / Photo Credit: Greenville News


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