Liberty Counsel Successfully Fights in Effort to Allow Prayer at Graduation

1 06 2007

Filed under: Liberty Counsel, First Amendment, Church and State, Omaha High School

The 2007 graduating class of Omaha High School selected two classmates to open and close their graduation ceremony with prayer. The students also selected a youth ministry leader as their commencement speaker. School officials nixed both the prayers and the ministry leader speaker under the guise that he might use the platform to speak about religious topics.

The senior class of Omaha High School had unanimously voted for prayer and for David Griffith, director of Christian ministry K-Life in nearby Harrison, Ark., to speak as part of their ceremony. However, the class was told by officials that they could not support such practices, however, due to separation of church and state.

Libery Counsel, an organization that is dedicated to fighting for family values and the advancement of religious freedoms, naturally got involved and had quick success:

Liberty Counsel demanded the school district reverse that position, citing the First Amendment’s prohibition on viewpoint discrimination and government censorship of free speech. The school district’s attorney responded by denying the allegations and assuring Liberty Counsel that the students could pray but insisting the superintendent had the right to decide there would be no speaker at graduation.

Liberty Counsel, now representing Underwood and Griffith, refused to accept the compromise solution of prayer but no speaker. The school district relented and allowed the student-initiated prayer and the student-selected speaker. Underwood gave an invocation and Griffith’s remarks included references to his heroes, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus Christ, and encouraged the graduates to do worthwhile things that mattered because their lives are valuable gifts from God.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, “It is a shame that school officials continue to make it difficult for students to commemorate their graduations with an acknowledgement of God. Rather than being an alien to the Constitution, religious speech is a preeminent freedom.”

Liberty Counsel is only a fraction of the size of liberal organizations (ACLU etc), but they know their Constitution far better than all of the Leftists combined. Often, these types of cases are resolved without requiring their lawyers to leave the office.

When Mr. Staver noted that it is a shame that school officials continue to make it difficult for students to commemorate their graduations with an acknowledgement of God, he was only covering part of the truth. It is further saddening that the majority of these humanist school officials know what the Constitution allows. So much so, that a simple letter/phone call combination is all it usually takes for them to back off, as was the case here.

Fear of going up against a religious liberty organization in a court room is enough for most administrators to allow a simple prayer at a graduation. It is equally heart-breaking that liberal school officials are completely against the free exercise of religion during the school year, as we see all year long (promoting evolution, homosexuality, drug use, etc), and remain equally defiant against these students’ wishes to exercise their Constitutional right to religion at a graduation.

These students are graduating from more than simply high school. They’ve just run the humanist gauntlet!




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