FFRF advised the administration of Western Brown High School in Mt. Orab, Ohio to refrain from incorporating prayers during school-sponsored events. A concerned parent informed FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel that prayer had taken place at the National Honor Society induction ceremony this year.
In his letter to Superintendent Peggy McKinney on Oct. 3, Seidel indicated that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits prayers at any event endorsed by the school, regardless of whether it takes place before or after school.
“Federal courts consistently strike down school-sponsored prayer in public schools because it constitutes a government endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and interferes with the personal conscience of students.”
Additionally, there were allegations that the school administration had discriminated against the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) by delaying approval of the club’s formation for more than six months. There were also complaints that the Christian club received preferential treatment from the school.
“As you are no doubt aware, the Equal Access Act requires schools to treat all non-curricular clubs equally,” warned Seidel.
The administration denied any offense but the legal counsel for the school informed FFRF on Oct. 22 that the school has dropped invocation from the ceremony “in the interest of not having misleading programs or confusion in the future.”
The school attributed the delay in SSA approval to a coincidental change in administration and logistical inconvenience.