Public Elementary School Celebrates Fifth Grade Graduation in Church, on a Christian Campus, with Prayers

The fifth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School — a public school in Taylors, South Carolina — recently held their “graduation” ceremony inside of a church.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

The church was on the campus of North Greenville University, a school so Christian, it puts Christ right in its logo:

But that wasn’t the worst part either.

The schedule of events listed two separate prayers:

School officials didn’t just cross the line. They destroyed the line and then prayed to Jesus to patch it back up.

At least one of the student’s parents — who’s choosing to remain anonymous for the time being — had the good sense to contact the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. On Monday, the AHLC sent the district a letter (PDF) informing them of just how much shit they’re swimming in right now:

Because [Mountain View Elementary School] has committed multiple constitutional violations, the school district may be sued in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides that the court may not only issue an injunction stopping your illegal conduct, but may award damages and require you to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees and expenses.

If you are interested in avoiding such litigation, please notify us in writing, within two weeks of the date of this letter, that you will no longer hold graduation or other school events in churches or include prayers as part of graduation ceremonies.

You have to wonder how out-of-the-loop these administrators have to be to let all these violations occur. At any point, did they stop and ask themselves if they were making the wrong decisions? Did no one tell them to reconsider what they were doing? Either they’re woefully ignorant or thought they could get away with breaking the law because they were Christian.

Well, thanks to a parent who knows better than the administrators, they’re about to learn a potentially-costly lesson. If they want to avoid the penalty, all they have to do is say that future graduations will remain secular, something they should’ve done in the first place.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.