GENTRY (KFSM) -- A local superintendent decided to end all prayer at future graduation ceremonies after getting a letter from the freedom from religion foundation. He wanted the community to understand the decision he made.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization based out Wisconsin, states that it is committed to the separation of church and state, according to its website.
The group stated the Supreme Court has ruled prayer at school events unconstitutional and that Gentry should have not included prayer in its ceremony.
The letter dated June 17 stated a citizen complained at the May 15th graduation ceremony that the program listed an invocation and benediction as part of the ceremony.
“Prayer has been student-led prayer...not from a staff member or administration, but from the students. It`s just been part of our ceremony for as long as I`ve been here,” said superintendent Randy Barrett.
He said the letter cited case law and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court stating. Since public schools are agents of the state, they can't do anything that gives the impression of endorsing any religion.
“I`ve known that for some time, but I`ve also known for some time who the people are that make up the school district and I`ve never had a complaint in my time here,” said Barrett.
Barrett said he's surprised Gentry is even on someone`s radar for prayer at graduation.
At a school board meeting, Barrett announced his decision to end that part of the ceremony and said he wants the community to understand it was out of his control.
“This was not an action of the board nor was it a preference of mine. It was a simple matter of for a long time we`ve been doing this and nobody had an issue with it and now someone has ,” he said.
Barrett said students will never be told that they can't pray and that it cannot be part of a speech they are giving.