A federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of agnostic parents who filed a lawsuit to prevent prayers being said at their son’s high school graduation.
Medina Valley High School in Castroville, San Antonio, has been told that it cannot include an opening and closing prayer at the ceremony on June 4.
District Judge Fred Biery also told the school not to use the words “invocation” or “benediction,” saying it would give the impression that the school was “sponsoring a religion.”
The lawsuit was filed last Thursday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of parents Christa and Danny Schultz.
The AU went to court after district officials allegedly ignored a letter from the couple’s lawyer last October requesting that public prayers be withdrawn from school events.
Chris Martinez, assistant superintendent of the Medina Valley Independent School District, told Reuters that the invocation and benediction would no longer take place and that the school did not plan to appeal the ruling.
“Our entire school system is set up on following the rules, and we are going to do that,” he told the news agency.
He added: “We don’t believe we have done anything wrong.”
The ruling also prevents students from asking the audience to stand and bow their heads, and from using overtly religious phrases such as “amen” or “God bless you.”
They may, however, make references to God and their faith in their addresses.