A Texas high school will not be including a convocation prayer in its graduation ceremony this year, breaking with a 100-year tradition as old as the school itself. Mark Reyes, the valedictorian at Poteet High School in Poteet, Texas, has asked that the school observe the separation of church and state and not include a prayer in the ceremony.
Reyes contacted the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who sent the school a letter asking that they observe the honor student’s request. The school’s decision to comply has kicked off an uproar.
Typically, the graduation ceremony opens with an convocation and closes with a benediction. “I know it’s the tradition,” said Reyes in an interview with KABB-TV about the flap, “But tradition isn’t aways right.”
Poteet Superintendant of Schools Andy Castillo said that the school is doing everything it can to balance the needs of Reyes and other students, “We honor those beliefs, we honor their rights while trying to remain true to tradition.”
In 2011, one neighboring school district spent thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting a similar request from an atheist student. Courts ruled that the student was in the right. Superintendant Castillo said that he isn’t taking any chances.
Reyes, the valedictorian, said that he does not mind if students personally include references to their faith in their speeches, but as for himself, “I just really care about the separation of church and state.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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