While it is great that that Flagler County School Board members “will discuss during a workshop whether to continue such an [invocation] practice in the future,” it remains clear that invocations at school board meetings are unconstitutional.
Courts have heard cases related to School Board prayers many times. In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found invocations at school board meetings unconstitutional and even moments of silence unconstitutional as the practice “violates the Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution] because it sends a message of government endorsement of religion.”
In Doe v. Indian River Sch. Dist., 653 F.3d 256 (3d Cir. 2011), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit noted that it “is neither sacrilegious nor antireligious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves."
In Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Chino Valley Indep. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 896 F.3d 1132 (9th Cir. 2018) the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit noted that previous court action was “appropriate, because it merely prohibits governmental action that violates the Constitution and does not infringe upon constitutional rights.”
I am a clergyman and am quick to note that prayer is important. We must all be quick to note that invocations at School Board meetings are divisive and let non-religious and in many cases, non-Christian students in our schools—not to mention taxpaying citizens of our county—know that they really do not fully belong. This is not the message our Flagler County School Board should be sending.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro
School Board should drop prayer and focus on governing
The Supreme Court has ruled that school prayer, religious ritual and indoctrination are not appropriate and are illegal in public schools. Public school boards are an integral part of the public school system. They are designed to set policies, procedures and standards for education, not to advance or endorse religion. The Flagler County School Board members should practice their religious beliefs and prayers in their homes and churches and focus on what they were elected to do before they get embroiled in a court challenge.