Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has put a stop to students in a Kentucky school district saying prayers during graduation ceremonies. FFRF wrote to the district after being informed by a "concerned citizen," telling the district that the practice violates the principle of government neutrality toward religion.
The concern came as a result of the Pikeville High School graduation, which included three Christian prayers. There was also a remark made on the "war on the Christian faith."
Principal Jason Booher's own son, Harrison, was one of the students who prayed that day.
"The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations. It is well-settled that schools may not include prayer in graduation ceremonies. It makes no difference how many students want prayer or wouldn't be offended by prayer at their graduation ceremony; the courts have continually reaffirmed that the rights of minorities are nonetheless protected by the Constitution," FFRF said. "The district has a duty to remain neutral toward religion, and by scheduling prayers at graduation, it abridges that duty and alienates the 38 percent of younger Americans who are not religious."
FFRF has also requested that the district ban benedictions, invocations, and prayer of any kind at graduation ceremonies or any other school events. An attorney representing Pikeville Independent Schools told FFRF that he has advised Booher to not let the prayers happen again.
"I represent the Pikeville Independent School District as board attorney. I have had the opportunity to review your attached letter and wanted to let you know that I have advised the principal to refrain from religious prayer at future graduations," the attorney wrote to FFRF.
Co-President of FFRF Annie Laurie Gaylor said that prayer is "exclusionary."
"The culmination of 13 years of secular education should end not in divisive and exclusionary prayer, but in a celebration that welcomes all students and participants," Gaylor said. "We're confident that Pikeville Independent Schools will keep its word and won't subject its graduating class to prayers."