After receiving pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and students, Chatham County Schools ended its longstanding practice of prayer at school graduations.
Two students at Jordan-Matthews High School, Luis Lucas-Tzun and Michael Thorpe, contacted FFRF and spoke at a school board meeting in opposition to plans to include prayers at their graduation.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a May 23 letter to Superintendent Robert Logan to report that the scheduled prayers were unconstitutional. Elliott reminded the schools that the planned invocation and benediction violate Supreme Court precedent. After receiving no response, Elliott warned on June 5 that FFRF filed a lawsuit last year on graduation day under similar circumstances in South Carolina.
Luis Lucas-Tzun told a local newspaper that he and other students continued to oppose the prayers even when they were bullied and harassed by other students.
“By choosing to sponsor a Christian prayer, our school was promoting one religion over another,” he told the Courier Tribune. “A public school is not to be made into a recruiting ground for any religion; prayer has no place in a secular event such as a graduation ceremony.”
The schools’ legal counsel responded to Elliott on June 6 that the prayers had been removed from the graduation programs. The graduation was held on June 8 without any school-sponsored prayer. In a show of opposition, some students prayed aloud during a moment of silence.
FFRF thanks Luis and Michael and two other Jordan-Matthews students, Shannon Dwyer and Josue Turcios, for their efforts to bring their school into compliance with the U.S. Constitution.