Group Issues Southeastern Request to End Prayer At Graduation

May 11, 2009

Author: Jona Ison

Source: Chillicothe Gazette

Southeastern Local Schools has received notice from a Washington group that it would be a violation of the Establishment Clause to include a prayer at the graduation ceremony.

Traditionally, the school has had a reverend deliver an invocation and benediction at the ceremony, but the practice recently was challenged by senior Jacob Davis. Davis, who raised his concerns in a Letter to the Editor at the Chillicothe Gazette, had conducted a petition of classmates for a moment of silence instead, gathering about 44 signatures.

Principal Leonard Steyer was prepared to make a decision about the prayer Friday when he received a copy of a letter faxed to the district Thursday by a staff attorney for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

"We write to inform you that the inclusion of prayer at public-school graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and to request that you end the school's prayer practice." The letter continues to cite the group's interpretations of court cases and asks for a response from the district by Friday, May 15, just eight days before the school's graduation. The letter does not indicate what the AU is prepared to do if the school does not remove prayer from the ceremony.