By Joe Holden
POTTSGROVE, Pa. (CBS) — A tradition is coming to an end at one local high school. Prayer will not be a part of the schedule for graduation.
The controversial change is being made at Pottsgrove High School in Montgomery County.
A heated debate has broken out over formal prayer at the high school’s graduation ceremony. It’s been a part of the event’s program for 20 years.
“Everybody should be afforded the opportunity to have the best possible graduation, without offense,” said Rick Rabinowitz, the president of the Pottsgrove School Board. He wants the formal prayer gone, fearing that it could be offensive to people of other religions.
He admitted to Eyewitness News that he was the one who objected after explaining what happened at last year’s graduation. “It went a little overboard with some of the words towards a particular religion,” he said.
Last fall, the prayer was pulled when school lawyers determined that it was not legal. However, we’re told no one knew that until recently.
“It should be up to the students,” said Patty Grimm, who is also a member of the school board. She believes the question of balance should be left up to the graduating seniors. “I’m sure there’s other ways it can be done, but then again I would like the students’ input.”
We’re told the district is not restricting student speech, but has concluded that it cannot be a formal part of the program. On those grounds, a compromise could be in the works.
“While the district cannot endorse a prayer of any sort, the students have a right to freedom of speech and we cannot sensor their speeches, or anything they might choose to say,” explained board member Bill Parker.
There was enough discussion over this prayer controversy that a special board meeting has been called for next week. It remains unclear if the board will call a vote on the issue.