A South Carolina federal judge issued an order against the Greenville County School District banning school-sponsored prayers, religious songs and the use of religious venues at public school graduations.
The order came as a result of a six-year legal battle between American Humanist Association (AHA) and the school district when administrators at Mountain View Elementary School in the city of Taylors held a graduation ceremony inside of a church.
Other public schools have held ceremonies in similar places — but upon learning that there were two separate prayers listed in the program, in September of 2013, the AHA filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of one Mountain View Elementary student against the Greenville County School District and multiple administrators claiming that the District violated the Establishment Clause through their actions.
“The district shall not include a prayer – whether referred to as a prayer, blessing, invocation, benediction, inspirational reading, or otherwise – as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony,” Federal Judge Hendricks wrote. “The district also shall not include an obviously religious piece of music as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony.”
The Judge also ordered school leaders to remove any references to prayer should they review a student’s prepared remarks.
If school officials do not review the student’s remarks, the student would be allowed to pray “provided that no other persons may be asked to participate or join in the prayer, for example, by being asked to stand or bow one’s head, the judge said.
“Moreover, in the event that a student’s remarks contain prayer, no school officials shall join in or otherwise participate in the prayer,” the judge ruled.