A notable case involving school prayer in Kentucky focused on a requirement by the state to post the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. A lawsuit filed by a group of parents went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the law in 1980.
The parents argued that the statute violated the establishment clause in the First Amendment, which required the state and government to remain neutral in religious matters. The Kentucky Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the state law, stating that the Ten Commandments influenced the structure of American law and the posting of the document merely fostered respect for the legal system.
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The U.S. Supreme Court, however, noted that the statute promoted religion and had “no secular purpose” because the Ten Commandments are religious text, according to First Amendment Schools
The inclusion of a Christian prayer at graduation ceremonies at Russell County High School was blocked in May 2006 when a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order, according to the American Civil Liberties Union
. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of an unidentified senior who said the prayer endorsed religion by a public school.
The U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled against clergy-led prayers during public school graduations in a 1992 decision. Lili S. Lutgens, an attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky, said: “Our founders intended that these religious decisions be made by individuals and families, not the government.”
Still, about 200 seniors stood up and recited the Lord’s Prayer during the opening remarks by the principal at the graduation ceremony and received a standing ovation from attendees, according to Religious Tolerance
Bell County school officials averted legal action by ending a tradition of having a minister deliver a prayer over the public-address system before high school football games in 2011.
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Bell County School Superintendent George Thompson told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the Bell County High School
home game against Lexington Catholic had been the first in decades in which a prayer wasn’t recited before a game. He said, “People were kind of jolted when we did the National Anthem and then kicked off,” starting the game without a prayer.
Thompson said further court action would cost the county money and result in defeat because previous Supreme Court rulings indicated prayer and public school activities were unconstitutional. A complaint about school prayer before games was made by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., which had received an email from a family about the prayer, according to the Herald-Leader.
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