Organization threatens to sue Greenville Co. Schools over prayer - FOX Carolina 21

Organization threatens to sue Greenville Co. Schools over prayer

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Members with the American Humanist Association, a Washington-based organization, said when two students held prayer at a school graduation back in May it violated the Constitution.

The group said its goal is to preserve separation of church and state. One of the students who prayed is EmmaKate Edwards.

"Lord bless each and everyone of our teachers," Edwards said back in May, during the speech.

Her mother, Kelly Edwards, said she is proud of her daughter who was a fifth grader at the time.

"We were very proud for how she felt, how she prayed and her convictions," Edwards said.

However, a letter from AHA showed not everyone felt proud. Members with AHA said another child's parents complained about the prayer, and where it was held, which was at Turner Chapel, at North Greenville University.

"The school should be able to use our facilities, and the student should be able to pray off campus," Dr. James Epting said.

He's the president of North Greenville University, which is a Christian college.

"If they don't have a place like North Greenville, then most of the parents and grandparents, and friends could not attend a graduation," Epting said.

However, AHA members sent a letter that states the Greenville County School District should stop student-led prayers during graduation ceremonies, and should stop ceremonies from being held at churches.

This is an excerpt from the letter:

"...the inclusion of even nonsectarian prayers delivered by private parties as part of a public school graduation ceremony is unconstitutional."

The group gave the District two weeks to respond, or threatened legal action. This is an excerpt from the copy of the letter sent to AHA from the District:

"...the District will not prohibit this practice as long as the prayer or message is student-led, and initiated and does not create a disturbance to the event."

So now, the legal team with AHA said it will sue.

"The school has continued to insist that it can hold public elementary school graduations in churches, and include prayers as part of the ceremonies. Given their intransigence, AHA's legal center is now preparing to bring this matter to court, in order to defend our Constitution's guarantee of separation of church and state," Bill Burgess stated. He's the coordinator with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

According to the letter the District sent AHA, it states if it decided to use Turner chapel again, efforts would be made to limit exposure of religious images.

Epting said he wants state legislatures, and Governor Nikki Haley to look into cases like this one. 

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