Last year, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center found out that administrators at Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors, South Carolina held their “graduation” ceremony inside of a church.
To make matters worse, the program for the event very clearly listed two separate prayers — both of which were led by students. Furthermore, both were Christian prayers that referred to “Jesus” and both were approved by a school official before the ceremony:
It’s possible to hold a public school graduation in a church — other districts have gotten away with that — but even Christian administrators who want to sneak prayers into the ceremony know well enough to call them “invocations” instead of giving away the game and they make sure school officials are not linked to the prayers.
The AHA sent the district a letter warning them of the consequences, but the school’s response didn’t quite indicate how they would change the ceremony in the future other than reiterating that “the school will not endorse the use of prayer by students”… which left the door wide open for prayers to continue without the school’s public support.
After another round of back-and-forth, the district took a stand and said they would not stop student-initiated prayers, leading the AHA to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of a family in the district.
Unfortunately, December’s court hearing was a mess. The judge, Ross Anderson, said things that no one with a strong knowledge of the facts should have said, a claim the AHA suggests in a recent court filing: