FFRF was able to put an end to a prayer during the commencement ceremony at an Ohio school.
A parent contacted FFRF in regard to a prayer delivered at the 2022 Amanda-Clearcreek High School graduation ceremony. Although the program listed “Words of Inspiration” to be delivered by a student, it was reported that it was well-known to the school that this was a prayer. Reportedly, the prayer had been planned and rehearsed at the graduation practice. Additionally, it was reported that a school staff member handed out a congratulatory message to students at the graduation practice, which included three bible quotes and references to God and praying.
“The Supreme Court has settled this matter — public school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students,” FFRF Legal Fellow Karen Heineman wrote to Amanda-Clearcreek Local Schools Superintendent J.B. Dick. “Additionally, public school employees may not urge religious points of view on students. The district has a duty to regulate religious proselytizing and messaging during school-sponsored activities, such as graduation practices.”
A response from the district’s legal counsel assured FFRF that appropriate steps will be taken to prevent these violations from recurring at future ceremonies. Attorney Susan L. Oppenheimer stated the district administration will “instruct students selected to give remarks at a graduation ceremony that they may not invite the audience to join in prayer.” Additionally, the district will require administrators to attend future graduation ceremony rehearsals to prevent speakers from invoking prayer.