May is the annual launch of Liberty Counsel’s “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign. Liberty Counsel seeks to educate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure that prayer and religious viewpoints are not suppressed during graduation ceremonies.
Liberty Counsel has published a free legal memo on graduation prayer which is available online at www.LC.org. Students are encouraged to wear Liberty Counsel’s red “I WILL PRAY” wristbands as a reminder to pray. Students have the constitutional right to wear religious jewelry and to pray during noninstructional times during the school day.
In a precedent-setting case against the ACLU, Adler v. Duval County School Board, Liberty Counsel won the right of students to pray or give religious messages at graduation. The case went before a federal appeals court five times and to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. The case established the legal principle that public schools are safe to adopt a policy allowing students or other speakers to present either secular or religious messages, including prayer.
In 2007, Liberty Counsel filed suit on behalf of Erica Corder, a valedictorian in Denver, Colorado, who mentioned Jesus Christ during a 30-second graduation message. Her principal threatened to withhold her diploma unless she issued a written apology to the entire school community. The case is still in litigation.
In 2006, Liberty Counsel represented Megan Chapman, a graduating senior and class chaplain in Russell Springs, Kentucky, who found herself the subject of a court order forbidding her from praying during graduation. The order was obtained by the ACLU. The entire senior class reacted to the controversy by standing and reciting the Lord’s Prayer, after which Megan stepped to the podium and shared about what God meant in her life. After hearing about the situation, Dr. Jerry Falwell gave both Megan and her twin sister, Mandy, full scholarships to Liberty University. Their story was featured on a segment of CNN’s God’s Christian Warriors. The twins are finishing their second year at Liberty. Mandy volunteers with Liberty Counsel and plans to attend Liberty University School of Law.
The purpose of Liberty Counsel’s ‘Friend or Foe’ Graduation Prayer Campaign is to protect religious viewpoints at graduation. Liberty Counsel will be the friend of 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 the school should neither command nor prohibit voluntary prayer or religious viewpoints.