A school district in Massachusetts announced that it will no longer permit public prayer at high school graduations after a large atheist organization placed pressure on them.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation posted the letter from the Massachusetts school district promising that they will no longer allow public prayer at graduation and other public events. The letter was sent by Canton School District Superintendent, Jennifer Fischer-Mueller, was dated September 5, 2018, and in response to the complaint from the organization. Fischer-Mueller wrote, “Regarding your letter of June 29, 2018, I am writing to confirm that steps have been taken to ensure that there will be no prayers of religious rituals as a part of any school ceremony (e.g. graduation) or any other school-sponsored event.”
Colin E. McNamara, Esq. authored a letter sent on June 29 wherein Fischer-Mueller had responded. In his letter, he cited that a “constitutional violation occurred at the 2018 Canton High School graduation.” He had informed the district of the violation when Reverend Dr. John Tomilio was asked to deliver the invocation.
Tomilio, in his invocation, prayed to a “holy, loving, and more gracious God”. God was asked to bless “these fine young men and women”, and for guidance as they “venture into the future that You have carved for them”. He prayed that God would see their lives as a ministry of love, truth, courage, and reconciliation. The prayer was ended in Jesus name, in which the response was, “amen”.
In Lee V. Weisman, the Supreme Court removed clergy-delivered prayers as they violate the Establishment Clause found in the first amendment. Due to this ruling, high school graduations must be secular in nature in order to “protect the freedom of conscience of all students”.
A Massachusetts school district announced that it will no longer allow public prayers at high school graduations after pressure from a large atheist organization.
The Lee v. Weiseman case was brought to trial in 1991 and resulted in a 5-4 decision in 1992. It began as a controversy over a graduation ceremony in Providence, Rhode Island. Principal Robert E. Lee had invited a rabbi to speak at the graduation. Daniel Weisman, who was the father of a graduating student, filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the rabbi from speaking. The District Court denied this request.
After the graduation and prayers, Weisman requested for a permanent injunction to be put in to place preventing al Providence school officials from inviting clergy to pray in their ceremonies. The District Court ruled in his favour, and it was upheld in the Court of Appeals. Lee appealed it again in the Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy (appointed by President Reagan) wrote the majority opinion arguing that, “The prayer exercises in this case are especially improper because the State has in every practical sense compelled attendance and participation in an explicit religious exercise at an event of singular importance to every student, one the objecting student had no real alternative to avoid.” They also stated that their purpose is to, protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.”
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