A school board in Kansas voted this week to allow student-led prayer at all activities, and even went as far as offering the schools’ public address systems for religious use.
According to the Leader and Times, school prayer had not been on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of USD No. 480 board in Liberal, but board member Nick Hatcher brought it up at the last minute.
Liberal High School had banned prayer before football games several years ago over concerns that allowing to students to pray over the intercom system could be construed as the school sponsoring a particular religion, which was banned by the Supreme Court in 1962.
In its 2000 Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe decision, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that allowing students to use the public address system to pray at football games violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
However, the school board’s vote on Monday means that students will now be able to use the public address system to initiate a prayers at upcoming games in Liberal.
Before the vote, Superintendent of Schools Paul Larkin had warned board members that they hadn’t thought through all the possible problems.
“We can have student-led prayer, but if we turn away certain groups — if you have someone who wants to serve up a prayer or a thought that isn’t the mainstream thinking — you’re going to have a problem,” Larkin explained. The thing to do is take it to [board attorney] Mr. Yoxall and get some advice.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Hatcher agreed. “I’m sure he’ll come back and tell us the reasons not to, or at least show us where the liabilities lie, but if there’s a will, there’s a way.”
“We don’t need to wait for that. We can make a board decision, as long as it’s student-led, to support prayer. I’ll make that motion. I’m gonna do it.”
After board member Tammy Sutherland-Abbott seconded Hatcher’s motion, the board approved it unanimously.
“I think that’s one of the greatest things we’ve ever done,” Hatcher said. “We do live in a democratic society, and I personally feel like our community would support that decision, regardless of the rest of the world.”
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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