With the announcement that a South Carolina lawmaker wants more prayer in schools around the state, let's take a look back to former lawsuits and debate over prayer in schools throughout the state.
May, 2015 (Greenville, SC) | American Humanist Association v. Greenville County School District
The American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit against Greenville County schools, saying that praying at graduations was violating a local fifth-grade student's constitutional rights.
U.S. District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks made the decision in the U.S. District Court of South Carolina to partially uphold prayer at graduation ceremonies in Greenville County schools.
The decision was in response to a Sept. 2013 complaint on behalf of the fifth-grade student, who attended Mountain View Elementary in Taylors, SC.
That student's non-theist parents said they felt "alienated" and "stigmatized" by the school's endorsement of Christianity during their daughter's graduation held at the chapel of North Greenville University.
The Greenville County School District in court filings said that official prayer is unconstitutional and should no longer be allowed. The district took steps to prevent official, school-sponsored prayers, but said it would not prohibit prayer at graduations so long as it is student led and initiated and does not create a disturbance.
January, 2014 (South Carolina)
State lawmakers pushed for legislation in this month, bill H. 3526, that would have mandated prayer sessions in schools. It would have required teachers to lead a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day, during which the teacher would be allowed to deliver a prayer.
Students who did not want to participate in prayer would have been allowed to leave the classroom. The bill was originally introduced in Feb. 2013, but did not pass.
The Supreme Court has held that teacher-led prayer constitutes a government endorsement of religion and violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The lawmakers who supported the bill at the time said they were willing to compromise on that point.
June, 2013 (Liberty, SC)
South Carolina valedictorian, Roy Costner IV, recited the Lord's Prayer in his prepared graduation speech that he chose not to get approved by school officials. He said he was trying to make a statement that "taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do."
If you never take a stand, there will never be a change...— Roy Costner IV (@royb4th) June 10, 2013
January, 2012 (Charleston, SC) | Anderson v. Chesterfield County School District
Chesterfield County School District's board voted to adopt a proposed settlement agreement that would end the practice of school-sponsored prayer, preaching, and religious activities aimed at students.
The agreement came after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of South Carolina, on behalf of a student and his father, both atheists, who have been ostracized for their objection to repeated official religious events and activities at New Heights Middle School and throughout the rest of the school district.