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Prayer compromise: Lenoir City school board adopts moment of silence

By Hugh G. Willett

Thursday, April 12, 2012

LENOIR CITY — The Lenoir City school board will observe a moment of silence before meetings in a compromise with secular organizations that have complained about prayer before the meetings.

Lenoir City Superintendent Wayne Miller outlined the district's policy at a school board meeting Thursday.

Miller said that although he and the school board members are people of faith, they are also sworn to follow the law.

"For that reason, we will provide an opportunity for people of faith to have an individual prayer during a moment of silence before each board meeting," he said. "After many hours of consultation, this seems to be our only legal recourse."

Miller said that the decision to limit prayer during school activities was made by the Supreme Court many years ago, yet for the most part the public remained silent. He urged board members to become politically active on the subject.

"If you have an opinion regarding this matter, the productive place to direct your energies is at the federal level," he said.

Board Chairwoman Rosemary Quillen said she knows how she will use her moment of silence.

"During this time, I will continue to pray for guidance, wisdom and vision for our decisions as a school board," she said.

Rebecca Market, staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secular organization that first challenged Lenoir City about prayer in the schools, said the "moment of silence" is acceptable to the organization.

"We're very pleased," she said.

The new policy comes only days after the district received a letter from Americans United, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports separation of church and state. The letter outlines what the group considers constitutional violations.

In addition to prayer during board meetings and before high school football games, the letter included new allegations of prayer before basketball games and during a graduation, and it cited posters from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The letter specifically mentioned Lenoir City High School Principal Steve Millsaps and an alleged prayer during a 2010 graduation ceremony.

Millsaps said he had think carefully before he realized the letter was referring to a speech he made at the 2010 ceremony in which he quoted from the Bob Dylan song "Forever Young."

"Is that a prayer? I know I was thinking about one of our students who died that year and about how we were sending these kids out into the world to become adults," he said. "The words from that song expressed how I felt."

Meanwhile, the Loudon County school board continues to pray out loud before meetings. The agenda for Thursday's meeting listed prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

LOUDON   COUNTY   BOARD   OF   EDUCATION

BOARD MEETING AGENDA

April 12, 2012

  7:00pm

 Courthouse Annex

            Opening of Meeting – Chairman Newman

Pledge and Prayer – Director Vance

 I.       Approval of Agenda – Chairman Newman

 II.       NMS Presentation

III.     Student Representatives Reports

a.     Greenback School – Haley Hampton

b.     Loudon High School – Corrine Neif

                         Recognition of Visitors:  This is the time for anyone who wishes to address the Board about any matter on the agenda or not on the agenda. (This time is        

                          limited to a total of 30 minutes for comments.  Anyone wishing to address the Board should limit his/her remarks to allow for others.)

IV.         Approval of   March Minutes

V.           Approval of Budget Amendments

VI.         Approval of Coaches

a.     James Willis – GBS Baseball

b.     Randy Jenkins – GBS Baseball

c.      Jarrod Hunt – GBS Baseball

d.     Jonathan Yates – LHS Football

e.     Chad Lane – NMS Track              

 VII.       Approval of Textbook Adoption

 VIII.     Eaton Armory Property

 IX.         Approval of PECCA Committee Appointment

 X.           Director’s Updates

Recognition of Visitors:  This is the time for anyone who wishes to address the Board about any matter on the agenda or not on the Agenda.   (Anyone wishing to address the Board should limit his/her remarks to allow for others.)

 

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04-13-2012