Nearly 400 graduating seniors at Pace High School stood up in protest against the ACLU and recited the Lord’s Prayer during their graduation ceremony on Saturday. Many of the students also painted crosses on their graduation caps to make a statement of faith. This event follows a lawsuit the ACLU filed against the Santa Rosa County School District, claiming some of the teachers and administration endorsed religion. Liberty Counsel represents Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and school teacher Michelle Winkler.
The graduation prayer protest by the students was preceded by a lawsuit filed six months ago by the ACLU. The school district entered into a consent decree, which essentially bans all Santa Rosa County School District employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities. The ACLU alleges that during a dinner event held at Pace High School, Principal Lay asked the athletic director to bless the meal. In another incident, the ACLU alleges that Michelle Winkler’s husband, who is not a school board employee, offered prayer at an awards ceremony. Leading up to the graduation ceremony, the ACLU demanded the school to censor students from offering prayers or saying anything religious. The ACLU then charged Principal Lay and Ms. Winkler with contempt of court.
The students at Pace High School were furious with the ACLU hijacking their free speech rights and decided to take a stand at graduation. As soon as Principal Lay asked everyone to be seated at the ceremony, the graduating class remained standing and recited the Lord’s Prayer. The ACLU has not taken any legal action yet but has stated that something should have been done to stop the prayer.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. The students at Pace High School refused to remain silent and were not about to be bullied by the ACLU. We have decided to represent faculty, staff and students of Pace High School, because the ACLU is clearly violating their First Amendment rights. Schools are not religion-free zones, and any attempt to make them so is unconstitutional.”