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Student coalition eliminates prayer from graduation ceremonies

A coalition of “student leaders, students and former students” at Northeast State Community College in Blountsville, Tennessee has succeeded in having prayers eliminated from the college’s graduation ceremonies.

The Kingsport Times-News reports that the coalition—consisting of Student Government Association representatives, alumni and at least one College Democrat, among others—managed to “[reach] an agreement in writing with the school” ensuring that prayers will no longer form part of Northeast State’s commencement exercises. In lieu of a prayer, a “moment of silence” will take place.

As a result, the coalition signaled to the college that the students are “dropping any plans to protest or in any way disrupt the proceedings of tomorrow’s graduation events.”

From the story:

[Tennessee Board of Regents] General Counsel Mary Moody, in a Friday statement through Director of Communications Rick Locker, said the TBR has no graduation prayer policy but cited a 1997 federal court ruling on a lawsuit against Tennessee State University “concluded that if a prayer or moment of silence is non-sectarian, with minimal involvement of the institution, it does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Locker said Cleveland State had a moment of silence Saturday and Chattanooga State held a prayer Monday. Walters State Community College had invocation and benediction prayers on Saturday. ETSU had no graduation prayers Saturday, but a speaker mentioned Bible verses in her remarks. On Friday, Northeast referred prayer inquires to Locker.

“For the past few years, they have been doing a prayer and it has been pretty overtly Christian,” [SGA President Emeritus Seth] Manning, who will graduate Tuesday, said Friday. “This has been an ongoing thing,” he said, adding that [Northeast President Janice] Gilliam “sneaked” in a prayer last year at the end of the ceremony. The letter also says, “In a secular country, as is the United States, and in a publicly funded institution such as Northeast State, there is no need or place for the president of the institution or any other leading figure at school to promote one religion over another. This is also, in our view, unethical.”

The coalition made its demands “out of respect for the diversity and inclusion of all students and faculty.”

Read the whole story.

MORE: Man praying at Clemson U. stopped by campus official: ‘Not a designated free speech area’

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