I will never understand why schools that actively break the law are perfectly willing to celebrate their actions in the media.
In the case of Shiprock High School in New Mexico, check out what a local news report said about its graduation ceremony last week:
At the Shiprock graduation, Kiana Poncho served as the master of ceremony. Catelin Dee said an invocation or opening prayer before Jodie Benally welcomed graduates and guests to the ceremony, and Tyrese Ben recognized the event’s guests.
Justin Yazzie led the graduates in the tassel ceremony, and Josiah Cury said the benediction or closing prayer.
Don’t blame the students for any of that. You have to blame the administrators that allowed formal prayers to infiltrate a secular ceremony.
And that’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is now doing. In a letter sent to Acting Superintendent Terri Benn, Legal Fellow Chris Line writes that invocations and benedictions have no place at public school graduations (and he has a long list of cases to back that up).Line also notes the reporting was accurate since a program from the ceremony includes the prayers right on the agenda. Furthermore, he writes, “everyone was expected to stand for the prayers” and this is a tradition that stretches back to previous graduations.
School officials may not invite a student, teacher, faculty member, or clergy to give any type of prayer, invocation, or benediction at a public high school graduation… The Supreme Court has settled this matter — high school graduations must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.
All the district has to do is to strike those two items from future ceremonies and they won’t have to worry about a lawsuit. If and when they make the change, though, they should at least send FFRF a thank-you letter for helping them save a lot of taxpayer money.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)