Prayer At Graduation Ceremonies: Are We Guaranteed This Right?
COMMENTARY | Do you have a student in the commencement ceremony who leads in prayer for the graduating class and their futures? Do you believe this is a religious right? This is a belief held by residents of Louisburg, N.C., and it will be decided in the court system.
If a student leads a commencement prayer, it is legal and legitimate. According to court rulings from state and Supreme courts, whether this is allowed would seem to depend on where you live.
California has allowed the barring of speeches that would make reference to Jesus. It also has been allowed to edit a long Bible passage out of a student's graduation speech. Kentucky, in 2006, upheld a decision that a student "should (not) have to sit through a government-sponsored prayer just to receive his diploma." Florida had the U.S. Court of Appeals overturn a ruling against prayer in a graduation ceremony organized as a "public forum."
The basis for these challenges is the First Amendment to the Constitution. It protects free speech and free exercise of religion while forbidding any government from sponsoring or approving a specific religion. Although many court rulings have outlawed officially sponsored prayers at school events, additional rulings have upheld the constitutionality of student-led prayer at these events.