The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking for your help in persuading the School District of Pickens County Board of Trustees, S.C., to drop prayers to begin its monthly meetings.
FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott sent a letter to the District on Nov. 26, 2012, protesting the school board's egregious practice of opening meetings with prayer led by students, which included sectarian references to the "Holy Spirit" and "Jesus."
(Our letter sent the religious community into a tizzy. Scroll to the end for links to TV news and other media coverage!)
At its Feb. 25, 2013 meeting, the Pickens County school board voted preliminarily to begin meetings with "nonsectarian" prayers by adults from the district. Elliott points out this new policy would still violate the rights of conscience of students and parents who are nonreligious or religious minorities.
Federal courts of appeals examining the issue of school board prayer have found such prayer — even nonsectarian — to be unconstitutional. As part of the public school system, school boards must set an example of respect and conform to law protecting children from the coercion of school-sponsored religion.
The Pickens County school board should get in line with the U.S. Constitution and stop alienating the 19 percent of American adults who have no religious affiliation. One in three young people today identify as nonreligious and one in five adults (Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, October 2012).
"Calling upon board members, as well as parents and students of the school, to pray is coercive, embarrassing, and beyond the scope of our secular school system," Elliott said.
The Pickens County Board of Trustees will meet next on Monday, March 25, 2013, to vote to finalize its policy of beginning each meeting with prayer.
Urge the board to follow the Constitution, and remove the divisive prayers from their meetings. (see Talking Points below)
Chairperson Judy Edwards
Pickens County Board Of Education
1348 Griffin Mill Road
Easley, SC 29640
Phone: (864) 397-1000
(Feel free to cc other members, below)
Vice Chairman Ben Trotter
Email a Letter to the Editor (via a comment box):
Feel free to use your own words or use or incorporate the statement below:
To avoid the constitutional concerns and the divisiveness school board prayers create, the solution is simple: discontinue them.
Nonsectarian prayer sends an inappropriate proselytizing message to all students, and excludes the nonreligious — the second-largest segment today in America by religious identification.
Calling upon school board members, students, parents and residents to pray is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of your secular public school district. Board of Education members are free to worship on their own time in their own way. Nonbelieving students and religious minorities should not be made to feel like political outsiders by their own school district. Nor should any school district send a message to students that they ought to believe in a deity or show obeisance to one.
I support a secular public school system.
Prayer issue packs Pickens co. school board meeting
(Watch this TV video to see an unbelievable "amen corner")
Attorney: non-sectarian prayer does not go far enough