By GALEN HOLLEY
A parent of a Grenada school student asked the school board to consider allowing public prayer over the intercom at sporting events, even though the district could be sued for doing so.
David McGregory said that Grenada students collected more than 1,500 signatures in favor of student-led prayer before events like football games. He presented the petition to the school board at its meeting last week.
“This was not prompted by parents,” said McGregory, who spoke calmly and dispassionately to the board for about five minutes. “We don’t want you to think that we’re asking you to step outside the bounds of the law, but the ACLU has deep pockets, and they’re scaring people coming and going, and they’re trying to tear our county to pieces.”
McGregory was referring to a law that Gov. Phil Bryant signed earlier this year that requires public schools to develop policies that will allow students to pray over school intercoms, at assemblies and at sporting events.
While not allowing school-sanctioned prayer, the law permits students to offer public prayer with a disclaimer by the school administration.
There can be no proselytizing, according to the law, and the message must be free of denominational affiliation.
The law Bryant signed follows a 2000 United States Supreme Court ruling that stopped student-led prayers over public address systems at high school football games in Texas.
School districts in Mississippi have been hesitant to allow prayer over the intercom in recent years, because of pressure from the ACLU. Districts throughout the country have considered the Texas ruling definitive.
The bill that Bryant signed earlier this year was viewed by critics as political posturing, not backed by any real legislative or legal foundation. It left school districts exposed to being sued on an individual basis, they said.
“Speaking for myself, I am a Christian, and I seldom attend a meeting that doesn’t begin with prayer,” said Superintendent Dr. David Daigneault. “You’re really preaching to the choir, here. As for the board, they must adhere to the law, and I assure you that we’re paying careful attention to that. The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue, and our board cannot step outside the bounds of that decision. Having said that, the board and I applaud you for speaking about what all of us agree is a worthy cause.”
Board President Tim LeClair agreed.
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