Indiana school district gives in to atheist group's demand to ban prayer at graduation ceremonies

(Pixabay/Counselling)A school district in Indiana has agreed to stop allowing prayers at graduation ceremonies following a complaint from an atheist group.

A school district in Indiana has promised to stop allowing prayers at graduation ceremonies in its schools following a complaint from a Wisconsin-based atheist group.

Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Elkhart Community Schools to complain about the prayers that have been featured in a graduation ceremony at the Roosevelt STEAM Academy.

The atheist organization has reportedly sent two notices to the school, arguing that the inclusion of prayer at school-sanctioned events is "unconstitutional."

FFRF lawyer Ryan Jayne claimed that a "concerned parent" reached out to the group after a speaker "invoked the name of Jesus" during a graduation ceremony at the academy on May 26.

"The Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations," Jayne wrote.

"It makes no difference how many students want prayer or wouldn't be offended by prayer at their graduation ceremony," the lawyer continued.

In response to the FFRF's letter, Elkhart Schools District Counsel Chief of Staff and General Counsel W. Douglas Thorne confirmed that the academy will no longer include prayer in their graduation ceremonies.

"The Elkhart Community Schools understand our obligation to maintain a status of neutrality on matters related to religious belief, and to avoid actions which might be construed as endorsement of any particular religious beliefs," Thorne wrote, according to The Blaze.

"Our obligation to maintain a status of religious neutrality is communicated to our staff at all levels on a regular basis," he added.

In a statement released on Thursday, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said she and her organization trust the school district to keep its promise not to allow prayers at the STEAM Academy's graduation ceremonies.

The FFRF complaint came just a few months after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb approved a legislation that guarantees the students' rights to religious expression in public schools.

House Bill 1024, signed by Holcomb in late April and went into effect at the beginning of July, allows students in public school to pray or participate in religious activities "before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression."

The new law also permits public schools to teach survey courses on world religions and allows children to express their religious beliefs in their homework and artwork as well as their jewelry or clothing. Additionally, the legislation also grants religious groups the right to use public school facilities.

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