Georgetown County Schools nixes prayer from school events

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) -- Georgetown County School District leaders have decided to remove prayer from all school-related events - including graduations, football games and school board meetings.

"This really wasn't a school board decision," said Jim Dumm, chairman of the Georgetown County Board of Education. "We want to make sure that everything we do is following within the guidelines of Supreme Court rulings. And, it's very clear to us now, that we've talked with our attorney, that what we're going to do by having a moment of silence will fall within that ruling.

The move comes after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a Freedom of Information Act request to all South Carolina public school districts asking for their policy on religious activity.

"Historically, we have opened our school board meetings with a prayer. We'd ask different representatives from churches in the area to come and open up our meetings with a benediction," Dumm said.

Now, the district will open its meetings with a moment of silence. The same will go for graduations and football games.

"We've had a number of complaints from all around the state, different kinds of complaints about religion in the schools," said Victoria Middleton. "The government can't impose a particular religion on people. It can't establish or require certain practice."

Some in the community have split opinions about the ordeal.

"It's like it's an attack on religion for those of us that believe in God," said Bishop John Smith Jr., pastor of Greater Bible Way Church.

Smith has prayed at school district meetings before.

"I understand that legally, they can be sued and we don't want to waste money, school money, on unnecessary suits," said Smith. "So, I understand that but, we just want to make it known, voice our opinion that we do not agree."

Middleton says she is unaware of any other school district to change their policies based on the ACLU's letter.

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