Prayer at school board meeting may be the last

IRMO, SC (WIS) - The invocation at the Lexington-Richland District 5 Board of Trustees meeting Monday night may be the last the board says as a body at its meetings.

"Our creator and sustainer, we pray for the health and well-being of our students and their families," said board member Beth Watson, who gave the invocation. "We pray for all our employees who work so hard on behalf of all our students."

The district is the target of a lawsuit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and several students, ordering the district to stop the practice of prayers before its meetings. It's part of a greater case the group filed to ban prayer from commencement ceremonies.

The school board amended its policy regarding prayer to comply with state law.

"We're working diligently to find a solution," said district Chief Information Officer Mark Bounds as he briefed the board on the status of the case Monday night.

Bounds told the board the attorney representing the district served attorneys for the Freedom From Religion Foundation an offer of judgment in August. The group had until September 9th to accept the offer of judgement or risk losing recovering damages in the case.

Bounds said the Freedom From Religion Foundation accepted three of six actions offered by the school district. Bounds says in most cases, all or none of the actions are accepted. The accepted actions referred to  prayer at graduation.  The district's three proposals regarding  prayer at school board meetings were rejected.

"The plaintiff's counsel wanted to accept the offer of judgment regarding the graduation prayer but not the invocation for the board," said Bounds. "Attorneys for the district indicated the offer of judgment must be accepted in its entirety."

"The legal counsels for both parties are still attempting to resolve this offer of judgment," said Bounds. "Our legal counsel and the Legal Institute, if you recall they came in and spoke to you, are confident we will prevail in the summary judgment and our policies fully comply with state and federal law."

U.S. Circuit of Appeals Judge Cameron Currie could rule on the case once she receives a response from attorneys representing the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Currie's clerk says that response is due September 26th.

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