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Board Reverses Decision, Revokes Graduation Prayer

Concerned about the potential costs of a threatened law suit, the Columbia School Board has revoked permission for prayers at a high school graduation ceremony.

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to revoke an earlier unanimous vote to allow the prayers during opening and closing ceremonies on Friday.

But the board reluctantly reversed itself after receiving a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union in Seattle, “suggesting both the state constitution and the federal laws and Constitution have said that was inappropriate,” Superintendent Don Anderson said at the special board meeting.

The board approved a lengthy statement withdrawing its official approval for the prayers, but supporting the students’ rights to free speech.

Burbank seniors in the past have opted to pray in the ceremony’s opening and closing statements, but this was the first year students asked permission, Anderson said.

Petitions asking for the prayers had been signed by 46 of the 53 expected to graduate.

Since the ACLU’s protest, students have discussed the issue and had decided not to pray and risk a costly court fight, Anderson said.

“If indeed there is a prayer and we’ve given permission, we’re at fault,” he said. “If we haven’t given permission and there is one, it’s a free speech matter.”