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FFRF contests two Georgia school commencement ‘services’

Divine intervention won't help a Georgia superintendent defend the religious sermons he delivered during two May 26 graduation ceremonies in Perry, Ga.

Freedom From Religion Foundation Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel has written two letters to Houston County Schools Superintendent James Hines requesting he refrain from blurring the lines between religion and government in future commencement addresses.

Seidel's June 4 letter addresses FFRF's concerns over a near sermon which Hines delivered at Veterans High School. As news of this violation made headlines, FFRF was tipped off to another series of violations at a neighboring high school. Seidel's June 5 letter notes that Hines once again sanctioned an overtly sectarian commencement ceremony at Perry High School.

During his address at Veterans High School, Hines told students and audience members they should live with faith in God.

Seidel contends that this is one of the more egregious school graduation violations FFRF has handled recently, considering the ceremonies took the shape of a church service.

FFRF received complaints from its members, including a U.S. soldier who was dismayed by the sectarian musical performance and religious speech he witnessed at his niece's graduation ceremony at Veterans High School.

A complainant said that the invocation was scheduled and given as part of the ceremony and the audience was asked to stand during these prayers.

Both ceremonies included Christian worship songs: Mark Harris' "Find Your Wings" was performed at Veterans High School and Chris Tomlin's "How Great is Our God" was sung at Perry High School.

"Public schools should not be seeking out songs that exclude students and create a divisive environment. Bullying is rampant in schools and on social media and Houston County Schools should be striving to find inclusive, secular songs that all can enjoy without compromising their own personal beliefs," argued Seidel.

Seidel pointed out that as superintendent, Hine sets the tone for the entire county. That he would not know or honor the Constitution is "shocking."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

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