A few years back I went to my niece's graduation at Mercer County High School. The graduation was nothing like my own, in 1989 in Oldham County. There was singing, speeches, and oddest to me... prayer. A whole bunch.
I remember one prayer at our school. A nice, non-denominational brief invocation by one of the teachers that nobody else had to even say Amen to.
Watching WAVE 3 tonight, there were several interviews with Shelby County residents who seemed to speak exactly opposite of the way they looked. The guys who looked like Good Old Boys spoke in favor of the ban, and some that looked a bit more clean cut spoke against it. One business owner, Jackie Kennedy, even gave this charming comment "Everybody's been saying, basically, what I say: 'If you don't like the way we do things in our country, go back to your own country.'" Note to Ms. Kennedy, the student in question was born in Chicago. Although, I guess in Shelby County, that's close enough to foreign soil.
Me.... I'm glad that Shelby County made the right decision.
I have nothing against prayer, I say them often myself. And I have nothing against prayer groups meeting in school, or someone saying one in school. But the graduation ceremony is not a religious one. It's a right of passage for every student who is getting a diploma. While it is true that a student doesn't HAVE to participate in the prayers, it isn't right for a student of another religion, or one who chooses none at all to have to sit through a Christian prayer or any other religious right at a public school.
Steve Doeber from Shelby County said on WAVE 3 "We do things based on majority, we elect officials based on majority. Why shouldn't majority have the primary say so in this case as well?" Perhaps Mr. Doeber needs to go back to school himself and learn about the Constitution and about some other things that resulted from the will of the majority, such as slavery and civil rights abuses.
If you disagree, please feel free to comment.
Prayer out at Shelby graduation
Principal yields to Muslim's plea
By Peter Smith
Shelby County High School will not schedule any formal prayers at its June 2 high school graduation because a student complained that such prayers violate the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion.
While students traditionally have given invocations and benedictions at graduation ceremonies, none will be scheduled this year, Shelby High School principal Gary Kidwell said yesterday.
He said the school had received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of a student demanding the school not have the prayer.
The school "will be compliant with the law and also provide a respectful and dignified program for all students," he said a day after meeting in closed session with the Board of Education and a lawyer -- while residents held a prayer vigil outside.
Kidwell added that traditional prayers at a school banquet and an awards ceremony also will not be held.
Arshiya Saiyed, who is Muslim, identified herself yesterday as the student who filed the ACLU complaint. She said other students share her view, a contention echoed by Kidwell.
Arshiya, 17, said she and those other students are "pretty happy" with the principal's decision.
But whether that decision means there will be no prayer is another question.
Last Friday at Russell County High School, after a court ordered a student who had been designated to pray not to do so, students rose on their own and recited the Lord's Prayer during the principal's remarks. And the student who'd been designated to lead the prayer included religious messages in her remarks to graduates.
Arshiya, who was born in Chicago, said she understands that student speakers at Shelby County also might include a prayer in their remarks, but she hopes they will respect her objections to the formal prayer.
"If they choose to pray … we hope it's a respectful prayer" for a religiously diverse audience, said Arshiya, who plans to study international relations and political science at Centre College and then attend law school.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that student-led prayers at high school football games and clergy-led prayers at high school graduations are unconstitutional.
The Liberty Counsel, a Florida law firm representing the student who spoke at Russell County's graduation, argues that if students elect a peer to give a message, without specifying that it be a prayer, that student has a right to pray.
Some Shelby County residents echo that contention.
"If the students voluntarily choose someone to give a message and that student chooses to pray, that is the student's right," said Jennifer Decker, whose son attends Shelby County.
Kidwell said yesterday that Shelby County students of all views have reacted maturely about the debate.
"Sometimes kids are a lot more mature and understanding than … we give them credit for," he said. "I think students are handling the whole issue really, really well."
ACLU lawyer Lili Lutgens declined to comment.
The Russell County case went to court after school officials there scheduled the prayer in spite of a similar letter.
Lutgens did say the ACLU and the Russell County student are "considering our options" after the prayer occurred in spite of the court ruling.
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.