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OK board member won’t deliver graduation prayer (September 2023)

After FFRF got involved, board members from Tulsa Public Schools will no longer be allowed to deliver religious remarks, including prayers.

Concerned community members, including a school district staff member, have reported that a board member had misused their position to impose their personal religious beliefs on graduating students and families during the East Central High School graduation ceremony. Complainants report that the board member participated in the graduation in her official capacity and delivered an explicitly Christian prayer, invoking Jesus Christ by name.

“A school board member co-opting a public school graduation ceremony in order to promote their personal religious beliefs and ask students to engage in a religious ritual is inappropriate and unconstitutional,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote in a letter to school system’s General Counsel Jana Burk.

Burk responded to FFRF by including the text of a message from Superintendent Deborah Gist. “Our schools will provide a precise script for board members to use in their commencement remarks, with an expectation that board members do not deviate from the provided script,” the message reads.