Members of the Pickens County School Board of Trustees in Easley, S.C., usually open their meetings by praying. They’re considering a change in policy—to bring in local clergy to pray instead. Please contact them now and let them know the only policy change they need is to remove prayer altogether as an official school board function.
The current policy provides for board members to give nonsectarian prayers to start the meeting. Under the new policy, the board would send invitations to give an invocation to clergy members listed in a database of local religious communities. This would allow for sectarian, presumably mostly Christian, prayers.
FFRF has sent the board several letters. An attorney for the board responded only to say the board believed it was in compliance with the law, referencing cases pertaining to prayer at meetings of legislative bodies (not school boards).
Prayer at public school board meetings is different from other government meetings because it takes place in the school context. Two federal appellate courts have ruled that school board prayer is unconstitutional. School board members should be modeling respect for more than 65 years of Supreme Court precedent removing proselytizing and religious ritual from public school functions. Religion in our public schools and on our public school boards is divisive. School board members can pray privately, on their own time and dime.
FFRF filed suit against a praying school board in California last week. It is also challenging school board prayer in another South Carolina district, School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties.
The Pickens County board discussed the issue extensively at its Oct. 27 meeting, but took no action.
If you live in the area, please try to attend a board meeting and give input. The next meeting is Nov. 24. Please also contact your board member, identifying yourself as a constituent.
Others outside Pickens County, please contact members of the Pickens County School Board of Trustees via mail, phone, or email today to voice your opposition to the board’s prayer practice.
School District of Pickens County Board of Trustees
1348 Griffin Mill Road
Easley, SC 29640
Board Chairman Brian Swords
Send your own message, or cut and paste wording below. If you live in Pickens County and/or have children in the school district, please be sure to include that information.
As a nonbeliever/atheist, I oppose the Pickens County School Board of Trustee’s practice of beginning its meetings with prayers. Prayer at public school board meetings is unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive. It excludes students and community members who are not religious, telling them that they are second-class citizens. The board should focus on educating students, rather than promoting personal religious views. Please take action to honor the First Amendment and student rights of conscience by dropping divisive prayers altogether from school board meetings.