Prayer at Upstate elementary school graduation upsets some - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Prayer at Upstate elementary school graduation upsets some

Posted: Updated:
The prayer EmmaKate wrote and recited at her school's graduation ceremony. (June 12, 2013/FOX Carolina) The prayer EmmaKate wrote and recited at her school's graduation ceremony. (June 12, 2013/FOX Carolina)
  • NEWSMore>>

  • Homeless man found dead near railroad tracks

    Homeless man found dead near railroad tracks

    Thursday, July 17 2014 9:49 AM EDT2014-07-17 13:49:05 GMT
    The body of a homeless man was found Tuesday morning on the railroad tracks near Fifth Avenue and 16th Street in Columbus. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan has identified the 62-year-old victim but saysMore >>
    The body of a homeless man was found Tuesday morning on the railroad tracks near Fifth Avenue and 16th Street in Columbus.More >>
  • Mom shoots at burglar trying to steal her car

    Mom shoots at burglar trying to steal her car

    Sunday, July 27 2014 6:33 PM EDT2014-07-27 22:33:43 GMT
    A Columbus woman catches a man trying to steal her car and fires back literally. The car theft gone wrong happened late Friday evening. News Leader Nine's Tyrone McCoy caught up with the victim. More >>
    A Columbus woman catches a man trying to steal her car and fires back literally. The car theft gone wrong happened late Friday evening. News Leader Nine's Tyrone McCoy caught up with the victim. He has an exclusive interview with the single mother who says she was just protecting her family and belongings.More >>
  • LaGrange woman hit by juvenile with cast iron skillet

    LaGrange woman hit with skillet by juvenile

    Sunday, July 27 2014 2:20 PM EDT2014-07-27 18:20:53 GMT
    The LaGrange Police Department says an 88-year-old woman was struck in the head with a cast iron skillet by a male juvenile. Police say on July 27, at approximately 4:43 a.m., the Patrol Division respondedMore >>
    The LaGrange Police Department says an 88-year-old woman was struck in the head with a cast iron skillet by a male juvenile.More >>
TAYLORS, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A humanist organization sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Greenville County elementary school because of where they had their fifth-grade graduation and what was said during the ceremony.

According to the American Humanist Association, the graduation ceremony for Mountain View Elementary School was held on May 30 at a chapel on the campus of North Greenville University and included two prayers.

AHA said they received a complaint from a Mountain View parent about the ceremony, prompting them to send the letter to the Greenville County Schools superintendent and the school's principal.

"It has been made clear by the federal courts that events such as these violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state," said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, in a release. "When a public school sponsors an event, it is the administration's responsibility to ensure separation of church and state is maintained."

AHA said the ceremony's schedule of events included the prayers and the location of the setting in a Christian worship space is a violation of the separation of church and state.

In the letter dated June 10, Miller states the school could face a federal lawsuit. The letter also states, "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."

North Greenville President Jimmy Epting said the school makes the chapel available to Mountain View free of charge because it seats nearly 2,000 people and can accommodate all who want to come. He said the ceremony has been held there for years without any problems.

Epting said he feels AHA's targeting of the school district is part of a larger attack on Christian values in the Upstate from people outside of the community.

FOX Carolina spoke with fifth-grade student EmmaKate Edwards, who recited one of the prayers. EmmaKate's mother Kelly Edwards said her daughter wrote the prayer herself and was listed on the event's program as the closing prayer.

EmmaKate's parents said they were proud of their daughter. The prayer read as follows:

"Thank you for coming! Let us pray. Dear Lord thank you for this day and all your many blessings upon us. Lord bless each and everyone of our teachers, leaders and parents. Lead, guide and direct us as we begin this new adventure into middle school. We give you the praise for all our accomplishments. In Jesus name I pray. Amen."

Greenville County Schools spokesperson Oby Lyles released the following statement regarding the letter and complaint:

"We are in receipt of the letter and our attorney is looking into the matter and will prepare a response about this specific situation to the organization.

"Principals are provided in-service and information regarding the Establishment Clause and the need to ensure that school activities do not advance, prefer, or promote religion. Through those efforts, we strive to balance the Establishment Clause with the protected ability for individuals to express private religious speech. For example, a school should not endorse the use of prayer by students at any school-sponsored event. The district will continue to monitor school-sponsored programs to ensure compliance with the law and will take appropriate action if needed."

AHA said the parents who filed the complaint want to remain anonymous. Epting said the school is welcome back, but a decision would have to be made by the district.

Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • YOUR TURN ON 9

  • Do you think Christianity is under attack in Upstate schools from groups outside the area?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes
    82%
    1132 votes
    No
    17%
    237 votes
    Maybe
    1%
    11 votes
  • Read more: Prayer at Upstate elementary school graduation upsets some
Powered by WorldNow

1909 Wynnton Road
Columbus, Ga. 31906

FCC Public File
publicfile@wtvm.com
706-494-5400
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and WTVM. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.