Huffpost Religion

Arkansas School District Cancels Graduation After Complaint Over Prayer Planned For Ceremony (VIDEO)

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Controversy over whether or not prayer would be a part of an Arkansas elementary school's graduation may have led school officials to simply cancel the district's sixth-grade ceremonies altogether.

The Riverside School District in Lake City has canceled this year's sixth-grade graduation ceremonies at East and West Elementary schools after an anonymous complaint was made, according to local ABC affiliate KAIT.

However, no one seems happy with the decision.

"As Christians and a mainly Christian town I think, there were a lot of people hurt that our rights were taken away," parent Kelly Adams told the station. "My daughter graduated last year from 6th grade and my son is graduating this year from 6th grade, and we had a pastor open our ceremony and my daughter actually closed the ceremony in prayer."

The controversy began on April 15, when the district received a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), notifying officials that a parent had complained about prayer at the graduation.

"As you may be aware, the Supreme Court has continually struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations," the FFRF's staff attorney Patrick Elliot wrote in the letter. "A prayer taking place at a 'regularly scheduled school-sponsored function conducted on school property' would lead an objective observer to perceive it as state endorsement of religion... We request Written assurances that Riverside Public Schools is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that religious rituals are not part of graduation ceremonies or any other school-sponsored events."

The FFRF works "to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism," according to its website.

In a phone interview with The Huffington Post, Elliot said that while the school did not officially reply to the letter, he was later informed the ceremony had been canceled.

"I'm concerned about that response," Elliot said. "We hoped [the school] would have continued with the graduation, just with the prayer absent, obviously."

Tommy Knight, the superintendent of the Riverside School District, told Fox News Radio that prayer was indeed at the center of the graduation controversy.

However, in an emailed statement to HuffPost, Knight said:

For several years district personnel had been discussing whether to continue sponsoring 6th grade graduation. At the May 6, 2013 meeting, the Riverside School Board approved the motion for the District to no longer sponsor 6th grade graduation.

Meanwhile, Adams told KAIT that a group of Christian parents are planning to hold their own graduation ceremony at a local church.

"We are including everyone, everyone is invited, we want everyone to come and be a part of it," Adams said. "We're not trying to be pushy or ugly to anybody, we just want them to know there is a God who loves them."

(h/t Raw Story)

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