A musical rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” has been performed during East Liverpool High School’s graduation ceremony every year for the past 70 years. However, this year, the students were told they were no longer allowed to carry on with the performance after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) complained about the prayer because it violates the separation of church and state.
According to the FFRF’s website, “the Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.” The group, which is described by the Christian Post as the “nation’s largest atheist organization,” first heard “The Lord’s Prayer” being sung during the school’s 2015 commencement ceremony. They later contacted the school’s administrators and asked that the prayer be removed from the program.
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) May 24, 2016
Rather than take on a legal battle, the East Liverpool High School administrators decided to simply cut the tradition from future graduation ceremonies.
“We said, ‘OK, we just won’t do it anymore,'” President Larry Walton, the school board president, explained. “It was a decision made because we don’t have a lot of money, and we’d rather hire teachers than pay lawyers.”
“When I was first on this board I expressed a concern about us singing,” Walton continued. “The comment made was that ‘we know we are breaking the law, we will do it until we get caught.’ Well, ladies and gentlemen we got caught. … I’m sorry this happened, but it’s a war we can’t win.”
According to WTOV, the decision did not sit well with the students, who disagreed with tossing away a 70-year-old tradition. Many of the students’ parents were also disappointed with the way the administration handled the situation.
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The choir director of 18 years even made an emotional plea to the administration at the school board meeting, but it didn’t change their decision.
“I really don’t want to get upset so forgive me for getting emotional,” Lisa Ensinger said. “As a person of faith it means a great deal to me as you know, but as an educator I see this as an opening to a very broad door that can cause great detriment to our music education program.”
“I know a lot of my student body was uncomfortable with it, just because it is tradition to have prayer at our school,” said Cami Post, class of 2016 vice president. “I think my class is very gifted. I think my class is super talented and that should be the focus.”
Students Banned from Saying Lord’s Prayer at Graduation Push Back with a Big Ol’ Lesson… https://t.co/hK6zhh2BIK pic.twitter.com/s4J8WpxvKi
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“We’re really big at traditions at this school and I think it would’ve been nice to have the same as my brother had whenever he graduated,” Post added prior to the graduation.
Despite the administration’s decision, the students decided not to back down, and said “The Lord’s Prayer” anyway. Class Valedictorian Jonathan Montgomery took the stage, and led the entire graduating class as they continued with the tradition, albeit slightly different — the FFRF requested they not sing the prayer, so the students recited it instead. The students’ decision to recite the prayer was met with a roar of applause from the crowd, along with a standing ovation.
Do you think the students should have been allowed to sing “The Lord’s Prayer?” Leave your comments below.
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