An Indiana public elementary school will stop prayer at its kindergarten graduation ceremonies due to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The ceremony last May at Springs Valley Elementary School in French Lick, Ind., included a prayer delivered by a kindergartener. The prayer was listed on the schedule.
FFRF reminded the school district that the prayer was unconstitutional and totally inappropriate.
"Including religious rituals, such as prayer, in school-sponsored functions shows school endorsement of religion, which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to Springs Valley Community Schools Superintendent Tony Whitaker last month. "The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations. It has settled this matter—public school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students."
The practice of prayer is especially egregious when it is delivered to a captive group of impressionable schoolchildren as young as 5 years old, FFRF emphasized. Parents, not public schools, are responsible for the religious upbringing of their children.
Whitaker was convinced by FFRF's reasoning.
"Springs Valley School Corporation will eliminate from any future kindergarten graduation ceremonies the section on prayer and will not allow any prayer at the graduation," he recently replied.
FFRF is delighted that children not too far out of toddlerhood will no longer be coerced into participating in religious ceremonies.
"Why on earth were kindergartners being compelled to join in prayer?" asks FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We're pleased that we played a key role in getting this deleterious practice ended."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 members nationwide, including more than 300 in Indiana.