Graduation Prayer Pits Agnostic Family Against Texas School District

An agnostic couple sued a Texas school district recently in an effort to remove prayer from a high school graduation ceremony.

The American United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Christa and Danny Schultz against the Medina Valley Independent School District in Castroville,Texas, alleging that it is illegal to include prayer during the upcoming graduation ceremony on June 4.

The couple have two children in the school district with one scheduled to graduate next week from Medina Valley High School. Their son said he might not attend his graduation if other students are allowed to pray during the event.

District officials, said AU, had ignored a letter by the parents’ lawyer in October 2010 requesting that the district stop public prayers during school events, thus necessitating last week’s lawsuit.

But the school board president, Roland Ruiz, argues that permitting students to express their religious views in school does not mean the district endorses religion.

“A disclaimer is printed in each graduation program that notes the content of each student speaker’s message is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement of the district,” said Ruiz.

He added, “It is sad that someone would choose the commencement exercises of the 50th anniversary of our school district as a forum for stirring political debate that threatens to needlessly cast a shadow of controversy over the pinnacle event of the class of 2011.”

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

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