No more religious rituals at school-sponsored events (July 11, 2014)

Rockwall Independent School District in Rockwall, Texas, will no longer permit prayer at any school-sponsored events, thanks to a Freedom From Religion Foundation letter of complaint. According to the report of a concerned citizen, Rockwall High School’s June 10 graduation at the Curtis Culwell Center included a religious prayer led by a local police officer. This graduation was one of two scheduled that week.

FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote to Superintendent Jeff Bailey on July 11 to report this constitutional violation. Grover explains: “School officials may not invite a student, faculty member, clergy, or other individual to give any type of prayer, invocation, or benediction at a public high school-sponsored event.”

Grover adds that, “Graduation should be an inclusive, unifying event designed to celebrate the accomplishments and prospects of the graduates. Including religious references does exactly the opposite, isolating non-Christian and nonreligious students, cheapening their participating by sending the message that they are outsiders at their own graduation and in their own community.”

Later that day the counsel for Rockwall ISD assured that the district “has agreed to take [the] appropriate steps to ensure that religious rituals are not part of graduation ceremonies or any school sponsored events in the future.”

At the second Rockwall-Heath High School graduation, which took place shortly after the FFRF complaint, did not include prayer or other religious ritual.

Freedom From Religion Foundation