Indiana school district says no more prayers (June 10, 2017)

An Indiana school district has promised FFRF that graduation prayers will not occur again in its schools.

A concerned Elkhart Community Schools parent contacted FFRF to report that the 2016-17 graduation ceremony at the Roosevelt STEAM Academy began with a prayer. The speaker asked the audience to stand and bow heads, and then led a sectarian Christian prayer, concluding with “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations,” FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to Elkhart Community Schools Legal Counsel Douglas Thorne last month.

This prayer is especially egregious when involving a captive group of impressionable elementary-age school children, FFRF added. Parents, not public schools, are responsible for the religious or nonreligious upbringing of their children. And courts have continually reaffirmed that the rights of minorities are protected by the Constitution. It makes no difference how many students want prayer or wouldn’t be offended by prayer at their graduation ceremony.

The school district has assured FFRF that it will adhere to the First Amendment.

“Our obligation to maintain a status of religious neutrality is communicated to our staff at all levels on a regular basis and I am, by copy of this letter, reminding our building principal on the importance of maintaining this status at all school functions,” Thorne responded. “We will continue in our efforts to meet those obligations.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation