A federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting a prayer from being said during graduation ceremonies at an area high school after a Muslim student on the planning committee objected and garnered the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Arshiya Saiyed, a senior at Shelby County High School, said she was working on plans for the ceremony, scheduled for last night, with the senior panel when the issue came up, according to WHAS-TV in Louisville.
“Terms like Jesus Christ, heavenly father, I talked about the fact I was Muslim and the prayers in the past were offensive to me,” the 17-year-old said.
Saiyed claimed that almost immediately after objecting to the prayer, she was harassed by a group of students. One student told her he wanted her out of the country, she related to WHAS.
Principal Gary Kidwell, who noted a prayer of some sort has been offered at graduation for years, said he will not tolerate further harassment.
“I’m aware of one isolated incident there was inappropriate conduct I was aware of, and we dealt with those,” he said.
The ACLU won’t comment specifically on the case, WHAS reported, but a spokeswoman said schools must be careful with graduation speeches.
“The closer it looks like school sponsored, the more likely it’s found to be school sponsored,” said the ACLU’s Lili Lutgens.
Saiyed said she would favor a moment of silence but not a religious prayer.
“We should be able to do that on our own and not at a state-sponsored public school,” she said.
Kidwell said he is talking to students and a number of groups to make sure the graduation ceremony is appropriate and legal.
The ACLU contends schools are on safe legal ground if religious prayers or speeches take place in private, voluntary ceremonies outside of graduation.
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