Missouri school changes graduation policy (May 25, 2017)

Thanks to FFRF, a school district in Willard, Mo., has adopted a policy to ensure that religion does not seep into future high school commencement addresses.

During Willard High School’s graduation ceremony this past spring, religious remarks and a prayer were given by Willard Public Schools Superintendent Kent Medlin in his address to students. FFRF was informed that Medlin had quoted the bible several times, evangelized the audience by discussing his “savior” and asked the students and their families to pray along with him.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote to the school board on May 18 noting that Medlin is infamous for abusing his position of authority to promote his personal religious beliefs in the past. Elliott asked for steps to be taken by the district to comply with constitutional requirements that it remain neutral regarding religion.

An attorney representing the district wrote on May 25 to inform FFRF that the remarks had been against the board’s policy. The district has altered its policy on graduation ceremonies to have the Board of Education review future commencement speeches.

Furthermore, the school board’s policy on religious neutrality will be reviewed with all staff members during the orientation for the upcoming school year.

Freedom From Religion Foundation