Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacates ruling upholding graduation prayers, NGU at center of controversy

Published on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacates ruling upholding graduation prayers, NGU at center of controversy
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center challenging the Greenville County School District in Taylors, for including prayers in its graduation ceremonies, as well as hosting some of those ceremonies in a Christian chapel at North Greenville University.

In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit vacated the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina’s ruling upholding graduation prayers. The Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the court to determine the American Humanist Association members’ standing to stop future graduation prayers and to determine the constitutionality of holding public school events in religious venues.

The American Humanist Association appealed its lawsuit against the Greenville County School District in July 2015 after the district court upheld the school district’s prayer practice at graduations and also found that the local family lacked standing to seek nominal damages for the district’s practice of hosting graduations in a Christian chapel.

The schools, according to the lawsuit, include Blue Ridge High School, East North Street Elementary, Gateway Elementary, Washington Center , J.L. Mann High, Eastside High, Woodmont High, Hillcrest High,Wade Hampton High, Greenville High Academy, Greer High, Berea High, Carolina High School & Academy, Greenville Senior High and Riverside High.

This case is about a school district’s longstanding and ongoing practice of including Christian prayers in school-sponsored graduation ceremonies and its practice of holding events for impressionable elementary students in a proselytizing Christian venue.

The only modifications it claims to have made (via a principal’s affidavit) are that the prayers at Mountain View Elementary School will no longer be pre-reviewed and that the program will not mention prayers.



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