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Ohio public school drops morning prayer

By The Associated Press
02.03.06

Editor’s note: The Associated Press reported on Feb. 16 that Weathersfield district officials said they would allow Mineral Ridge students to open the school day with a moment for silent prayer, reflection or meditation. The officials said the new policy was adopted on the advice of district lawyers, who said those practices are allowed under Ohio law if they're done voluntarily.

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio — A public high school has stopped opening the school day with a prayer, after a newspaper questioned school officials about whether the practice was appropriate.

Until this week, the Lord's Prayer was recited over the public address system at Mineral Ridge High School before the Pledge of Allegiance and morning announcements.

The Warren, Ohio, Tribune Chronicle had questioned Weathersfield Local School District officials about whether the prayer violates the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The newspaper reported the school district's decision but has not expressed an editorial opinion.

No student at the school, which enrolls about 300 students in northeast Ohio, was required to say the prayer and none had complained, Superintendent Mike Hanshaw said.

"We're now in compliance with the law," he said.

The separation of church and state doesn't prevent public school students from praying on their own while they're at school, said Gary Daniels, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer. Students can pray alone or join voluntary religious groups to pray at times and in areas of school that will not disrupt classes.

In Engel v. Vitale (1962), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a public school in New York had violated the First Amendment by requiring a prayer be said at the beginning of each school day.

In a 2000 ruling, Santa Fe Ind. School Dist. v. Doe, the Supreme Court said a Texas school district was giving the impression of prayer sponsorship when students were using loudspeakers under the direction of a faculty member for prayers before sports events.


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