School board members of a Pennsylvania high school have voted to replace prayer at this year’s graduation ceremony with a moment of silence.
Even though regular prayer led by staff was taken out of public schools back in 1963 — the same year Bible reading became no longer standard and evolution began being taught over creation — students have been permitted to pray on their own volition on campus … including at graduation.
However, after school officials decided to weigh in on the issue, prayer at Pottsgrove High School’s graduation ceremony this Wednesday is no longer an option for graduating seniors.
Problem with prayer
The regular practice of students offering up prayers during their graduation speeches became an issue at the southeastern Pennsylvania high school last year when a parent of one of the students — who also served as the school board’s president — had a problem with one graduating student’s prayer, according to The Reading Eagle. The complaint was brought before the board that a Christian prayer was offered by a grad last June — instead of the scheduled nondenominational prayer.
This deviation from the scripted prayer upset the parent, who proceeded to pursue the matter until a school board meeting was arranged to resolve the issue as to whether any form of prayer would be permitted at future graduation ceremonies at Pottsgrove High School, which is located about an hour out of Philadelphia.
When the meeting to discuss prayer finally took place, many students showed up to voice their opinions and listen, with a number of them looking to fight for their right to free speech and religious expression, as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
After all was said and done, more than 20 people expressed their opinions at the school board meeting. Many voicing their take on the issue made strong arguments to keep prayer as an integral part of Pottsgrove’s commencement ceremony, while several claimed that any type of religious expression focusing on a particular faith ostracizes those with no such beliefs.
It was alleged by some that the Christian prayer was inappropriate and could have offended those in attendance — and could possibly constitute the establishment of religion by the state-run school.
Christians whose faith plays an important part of their lives felt that it was unfair for the school board to tell students that they cannot express their gratitude or thanks to God any longer because a few people are offended by any mention of religion.
The verdict …
In the end, students, teachers and parents had to submit to the school board members’ vote, which determined that prayer would now be replaced with a simple and less meaningful “moment of silence” at Pottsgrove High School’s graduation ceremony this year on June 15.
With all of the controversy taking place around the time of graduation, many of this year’s graduating students expressed disappointment that their special day of receiving their diplomas in front of friends and family was marred and overshadowed by the dispute started by one disgruntled, but influential, parent.
Caroline Remelius, a graduating senior at Pottsgrove High School, shared with the media her remorse that such a feud has divided her community and has taken the focus off of her graduating class.
“Graduation is supposed to be about sending off the seniors,” Remelius asserted. “To have this community practically eat each other alive is just sad.”
Regardless of the outcome, it is contended that even if school board members voted to keep prayer, it still would have been absent from this year’s graduation.
School solicitor Marc Davis stated that he was very doubtful that a new school prayer policy could have been ratified before Pottsgrove’s graduation ceremony — had the vote turned out differently in favor of prayer, SRNNews.com reports.