Gaston, SC (WLTX) - It's an issue that began with a school assembly-turned-religious event last year at a Chesterfield County middle school, but its effects have now reached all across our state.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina launched their "Religious Freedom Goes to School" campaign at the beginning of this school year, and the ways one Midlands school district are complying has the rumor mill going.
Monday night, News19 was at Lexington District Four's board meeting, where parents spoke out about wanting religion in their children's school day and the district got answers on what their policy should be from their attorney.
It was a gathering in the Sandhills Middle School cafeteria that started with the board specifically mentioning Jesus in prayer. But just a few minutes later, parents were defending their child's right to utter those same words within these walls during the day.
"They need to know that they have the rights to, if they want to bow their head right here at the table and say a blessing over the food, it needs to be blessed," one minister told the crowd.
Said another parent to the school board, "You proclaim tolerance. But, it's amazing to me how intolerant those that proclaim tolerance are."
But, the goal for the school board tonight was to disspell rumors that were swirling about what they were doing to comply with the ACLU's campaign and federal law. In a memo to their employees, the district says they did not disband any Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups at schools, nor prevent students from praying on their own. "Public school children have the right to pray in school," David Duff, who serves at the board's attorney told the crowd, "They can pray in small groups, they can pray before they have lunch at school, they can pray before they take a test."
Questions were raised that board will still have to look at. Asked one woman who lives in the district, "Can coaches, at the end of practice, say, 'Practice is now over and any student that would like to leave is free to do so. I'm going to lead a prayer?" It's also still up in the air if the board can pray before a meeting.
But, Lexington Four is hoping to take steps to comply both the Establishment Clause and their goal to help students become productive members of society.
The Board didn't respond to any of the questions raised by parents and citizens Monday, but said the Superintendent would respond to them in the next few days and that her response will also be posted on the district's website.