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Tennessee School Targeted for Holding Prayer at Graduation


The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has accused a Tennessee school of hosting an unconstitutional event after students at the school held a prayer during their graduation ceremony, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

The FFRF argued that the Ringgold High School graduation prayer was unconstitutional coming from a public institution, and could make non-religious students feel uncomfortable. They claim to have received a complaint from a student’s parent.

"The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations," FFRF legal fellow Christopher Line wrote to the school board. "School officials may not invite a student, teacher, faculty member, or clergy to give any type of prayer, invocation, or benediction at a public high school graduation," he declared.

The school district claimed that the prayer was organized by the students, which would make it a form of constitutional free expression.

Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese released a statement in defense of the student prayer:

"Graduation ceremonies are planned and led by students,” she wrote. “If and when the system receives a complaint, the system's attorney will thoroughly research the allegations, and when he has completed this research he will respond to the Freedom from Religion Foundation explaining how our students can continue to develop graduation programs and lead the ceremonies."

The graduation controversy is the sixth time that FFRF has targeted the Tennessee school for their involvement in religious-like activities.

In one specific instance, FFRF wrote to Ringgold High in 2016 when the school’s football team held a baptism after practice on school grounds in honor of a former student who died in a car accident that fall.  

The next year, FFRF wrote to the school after students partnered with a Christian non-profit to make flag holders in the shape of a cross for a charity event. The non-profit who collaborated with the students helps build schools, churches, and homes in Nicaragua.

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