Invocation, benediction removed from ceremony (August 18, 2021)

Invocations and benedictions are no longer included in Orville (Ohio) City School District’s graduation ceremonies.

A student’s parents notified FFRF that their daughter’s graduation ceremony contained multiple state/church violations, such as an invocation, a benediction, and a commencement address given by a local pastor, who said, among other things, “You are either heading toward God or away from God. Please remember today that prayer and faith will always point you in God’s direction. Do your best not to go in the wrong direction.”

FFRF Legal Fellow Joseph McDonald wrote in a letter to Superintendent Jon Ritchie that “The court stated that in this context, ‘Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective . . . student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable . . . stamped with her school’s seal of approval.’”

Ritchie responded by quoting the Board of Education’s policy manual and affirming that the ceremony will include neither benediction nor invocation. Student remarks will also be reviewed beforehand to ensure they follow the policy and the law.

Freedom From Religion Foundation