In 2003, a federal appeals court tossed a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union against the Norfolk, Nebraska, school district after a school board member led students at a commencement ceremony in reciting the Lord's Prayer, Peninsula Clarion reported
The lawsuit was tossed on appeal with the U.S. 8th Circuit Court, which agreed with a decision by a federal judge in a lower court that the district did not violate the separation of church and state when board member Jim Scheer stepped up at the graduation service to offer the prayer. Scheer spoke because his son was in the graduating class, and not in his capacity as a board member, the court noted.
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In a separate 2011 lawsuit, the ACLU contended that the Lakeview High School in Columbus, Nebraska, "coercively subjects students to 'unconstitutional religious messages,' " by subjecting them to a graduation prayer, according to American Civil Liberties Union Nebraska
"The current ceremony coercively subjects students to religious messages as the price of attending high school commencement," noted ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. "This leaves some students and their families feeling like second-class participants at their own graduation."
The organization said it launched a probe at Lakeview after a community member complained. The school later claimed its ceremony was private. But the ACLU said such a claim was not true.
"It is perfectly acceptable to have a truly private graduation ceremony as a supplement to the official, school-sponsored event," Miller noted, according to ACLU Nebraska. "What is happening at Lakeview High is a sham separation and therefore unconstitutional."
The Columbus Lakeview district, however, said it would continue to allow a student-led prayer at graduation in spite of pressure from the ACLU, the Journal Star noted
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