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Notable Lawsuits Over School Prayer in Iowa

By    |   Saturday, 20 Jun 2015 04:25 PM

School prayers at graduation ceremonies have turned into legal issues in Iowa over the years. Public school officials have made attempts to satisfy parents and students while trying to avoid any link to government endorsement of religion.

Here are three notable lawsuits over school prayer in Iowa.

1. Sheldon Community School District
In 1993, the Sheldon Community School District had plans to include graduation prayers. Even though a majority of students had voted in favor of the prayers, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa ruled that such prayers were unconstitutional, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The court based part of its decision on a 1992 ruling by the Supreme Court, which stated prayer during public school graduation ceremonies had a “coercive effect” on students by conveying a message of government-endorsed religion.

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2. Woodbine Community School District
The Iowa Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Woodbine Community School District to prevent singing of the Lord’s Prayer by a high school choir at a graduation ceremony in 2002, according to the Iowa State Daily. The ICLU represented Donovan and Ruby Skarin, 14-year-old twin sophomores who were choir members and felt uncomfortable about singing the prayer.

“The prayer which they are having us sing for graduation is basically forcing us to sing praise to a God that we don’t even believe in,” Donovan told the Iowa State Daily.

The school district attempted to avoid litigation by including a non-religious song at the ceremony as well. However, a district judge prohibited the singing of the prayer in a May 2002 ruling, according to Leagle Inc.

3. Le Mars High School
Seven seniors at Le Mars High School filed a lawsuit in 2003 against the school district in the U.S. District Court in Sioux City to allow a moment of silence at their high school graduation ceremony, according to The Associated Press. The move was supported when the school district allowed the 30-second moment of silence without endorsement of religious activity.

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The AP reported that the moment of silence was for reflection or prayer if attendees decided, according to Jim Hanks, the school district’s attorney. Students had decided on the moment of silence during a meeting before graduation, but the school superintendent had overruled the decision because a principal at the meeting had mentioned the word “prayer” while discussing the moment of silence.

The students were represented by the American Family Association for Law & Policy, a Christian group in Tupelo, Miss.


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School prayers at graduation ceremonies have turned into legal issues in Iowa over the years. Public school officials have made attempts to satisfy parents and students while trying to avoid any link to government endorsement of religion.
school prayer, Iowa, lawsuits
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2015-25-20
Saturday, 20 Jun 2015 04:25 PM
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