Atheist group sues over graduation ceremony, prayer - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Atheist group sues over elementary school graduation ceremony, prayer

TAYLORS, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Members with the American Humanist Association (AHA), a Washington-based organization, said they have filed a suit to stop a public elementary school in South Carolina from holding graduation ceremonies in a chapel.

The group said they received a complaint earlier this year from the parents of a fifth-grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Taylors about the ceremony at the Turner Chapel, at North Greenville University.

The AHA also said the official schedule of events for the graduation called for prayers on two separate occasions as part of the ceremony.

The AHA then asked the school to change the ceremony or possibly face a lawsuit. The school said they would not change the event.

"The federal courts have been clear that events like these violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state," said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. "Any event sponsored by a public school must not violate that principle."

The AHA said its goal is to preserve the separation of church and state, but some people disagree.

"The school should be able to use our facilities, and the student should be able to pray off campus," said Dr. James Epting, the president of North Greenville University, which is a Christian college.

"If they don't have a place like North Greenville, then most of the parents and grandparents, and friends could not attend a graduation," Epting said.

However, AHA members filed a suit that states the Greenville County School District should stop student-led prayers during graduation ceremonies, and should stop ceremonies from being held at churches.

Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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