An “I will pray” wristband Liberty Counsel used in 2008 to promote rights
Liberty Counsel, a non-profit litigation organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, is launching the 2009 version of its annual “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign, which targets those school officials who censor references to the students’ faith during various graduation events.
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, said the issue isn’t complicated at all – but it is important: the religious expression rights of students.
“The purpose of Liberty Counsel’s ‘Friend or Foe’ Graduation Prayer Campaign is to protect religious viewpoints at graduation,” he said. “Liberty Counsel is a friend to schools that recognize the free speech rights of students and invited speakers and the foe of those that violate their constitutional rights.
“The key to graduation prayer is that schools may neither command nor prohibit voluntary prayer or religious viewpoints,” he said.
In 2006, the organization worked on a case involving Megan Chapman, a graduating senior and class chaplain in Russell Springs, Ky., who was made the subject of a lawsuit by the ACLU.
That organization told her not to pray during her graduation ceremony.
But in a bold act of defiance, Chapman’s entire senior class stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Megan followed the prayer with a speech on what God has meant in her life. Chapman and her twin sister subsequently were given full tuition scholarships to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty Counsel also previously won the precedent-setting Adler v. Duval County School Board case that also involved the ACLU. The results assured the right of students to pray and give religious messages at graduation. The case went before the federal court of appeals five times and before the Supreme Court twice.
In a case from two years ago that remains in the courts, a principal near Colorado Springs, Colo., forced valedictorian Erica Corder to write an apology to her school community, threatening to withhold her diploma, because she said the name of Jesus Christ in her 30-second speech.
While Staver expects more cases will develop during this coming graduation season, he said eventually the goal is freedom of expression for those students.