Email stirs feelings on school prayer


Blount

A recent announcement from Clinton City Schools superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount may have caused negative feelings among area residents, but the notice only served as a reminder of regulations staff and students should already be aware of.

The Sampson Independent received a copy of an email sent to all administrative staff members from Blount June 2. According to Blount’s email, staff were asked to follow a directive that had been issued after Blount consulted with board members and the board’s attorney. It simply stated that prayers were not to be a part of any student function.

Comments and opinions quickly found their way to social media earlier in the week, after the community and staff were reminded that no prayers or blessings should be given.

According to Blount, the email came after he was made aware of concerns of the community that school-sponsored events were still allowing prayer to be a part of the programs. The specific incident Blount says he was made aware of was during a function when an adult asked a blessing — that may have been a little too spiritually guiding, in the opinion of some members of the community.

“There were students present and members of the community had concerns about the prayer because of personal religious beliefs,” Blount shared when contacted about the email.

Blount’s email stated, “Our school system has recently received concerns from community members with regard to Christian based blessings and/or invocations being said prior to and/or during school-sponsored programs, assemblies, or banquets attended by students. I have consulted with the Board and the Board attorney. The following directive is issued and goes into effect immediately:

“At all future academic/athletic banquets, graduation programs, awards assemblies, group meals or banquets, where students are present, no ‘blessing’ or invocation should be given. As an alternative, you have the option of allowing a ‘moment of silence’ or ‘moment of quiet reflection’ prior to the beginning of the program or any group meal.

“Please communicate this directive immediately to all staff members and organizations that partner with your school (i.e. PTSO, athletic boosters, band boosters, etc.). If you have any questions, please let me know.”

After Blount was made aware of the community concerns, Blount said he consulted with the board members and board attorney, as prayer isn’t allowed to be part of public school functions.

“There have been cases settled in court that call for the separation of church and state,” Blount said during the telephone interview. “It’s my job to make sure the staff is aware of what the law says.”

Christian school clubs and functions are still allowable, according to Blount, provided they aren’t a requirement for any student to attend and part of organizations that are voluntary. Such clubs as Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and events such as See You at the Pole, are still permissible.

“One religion just can’t take precedent over another,” Blount stated.

According to Blount, while prayer can’t be on any program, students have the right to offer a prayer during events. Students can’t be asked by school authorities to pray, but Blount said students have the right to prayer on their own terms.

“Student-led prayer is not illegal,” Blount said.

Prayer, according to Blount, is also allowable at school board meetings, as they are not student functions, even though students are present at many of the meetings.

Former student Maggie Wells posted her surprise of the notice on Facebook.

“As a Christian I feel like my views shouldn’t be stifled by anyone, prayer at my graduation last year was something that put me at ease before leaving a big chapter of my life behind. If someone is offended by prayer, that’s your own personal view and I respect that. But I feel that people need to respect my views or other graduating CHS senior views who want this opportunity to pray,” Wells commented.

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