South Carolina Considering Appeal of Graduation Prayer Ruling

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Judge Bruce Hendricks, seen here giving a commencement speech in 1983, recently ruled graduation ceremonies at Greenville County Schools will no longer be allowed to include official student-led prayer.

The South Carolina Greenville County School District is considering an appeal on a recent district court decision about student-led prayer.

On July 18, a South Carolina District Judge, Bruce Hendricks, issued a ruling in the almost six year old case between Greenville County Schools and the American Humanist Association (AHA) involving student-led prayer, according to Greenville County Schools spokeswoman Beth Brotherton. 

Brotherton said the ruling included a permanent injunction requiring the school district to continue to avoid religious entanglements, in ways such as ensuring student speakers are selected on religiously neutral criteria, such as class rank or leadership roles.

On Thursday, Brotherton released the following statement about a possible appeal to the decision: 

“A recent ruling by the South Carolina District Court in a six-year-old case between Greenville County Schools and the American Humanist Association upheld the District’s position regarding student expression and does not prevent student prayers at Greenville County Schools’ graduation ceremonies. The school district’s legal team is currently reviewing the order in great detail. Though the ruling does not prevent students from praying, it does provide a ‘more specific set of guidelines regarding the inclusion of prayer at graduation ceremonies occurring in the district.’

“The majority of the nine guidelines in the court decision reflect existing practices in GCS, but there is enough new language to warrant concern. As a result, the GCS Board of Trustees will receive legal advice on the Court Order and its significance at a Special Called Meeting on Tuesday, August 13, immediately following the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting. At that time the administration will make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees on whether further legal action, such as an appeal, is warranted.”

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