TJCA will not have prayer on their graduation agenda

MOORESBORO – Clayton Fowler addressed the Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy School Board in March challenging the legality of the prayer offered at graduation services. Fowler charged the North Carolina Charter School with failing to adhere to the Establishment Clause which protects federally funded institutions from excessive entanglement with religion. Fowler requested that there be no prayer at the TJCA graduation ceremony.

Publicly funded high schools, including Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy charter school, are required to adhere to the Establishment Clause. As Fowler wrote below:

TJCA’s relationship with religion is governed on the state level under North Carolina G.S 115C-238.29F, a charter school “shall be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies …” The law goes further to state that a charter school “shall not be affiliated with a nonpublic sectarian school or a religious institution.”

Fowler continued with:

Thomas Jefferson’s ‘charter’ status does not exempt it from the separation of church and state. As a publicly funded institution, it must adhere to the Establishment Clause, or face penalties. In the defense of our friends who are Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, and anything in between, we must hold our school accountable. This is not the first time that faculty/non-student led prayer has been an issue at TJ, but we can end this problem.

Both Fowler and TJCA School Board Chair Paula Staley cited a 1992 Supreme Court case, Lee v. Weisman, where the Court struck down policies of inviting members of the clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at graduation ceremonies as a violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause. Others may remember when then TJCA school board member Ted Bell opposed a similar issue when headmaster Joe Maimone defended a teacher who was leading her class with Christian prayer.

At the April monthly TJCA board meeting, a decision regarding having prayer on the graduation agenda was reached.

Chairperson Paula Staley responded to our inquiry as follows:

4/7/2017 11:45:04 AM
Subject: Re: Prayer at Graduation

No prayer by TJ at the graduation. We are a public school and will follow state and federal law.


10 Responses to TJCA will not have prayer on their graduation agenda

  1. Sandra Thomas 04/09/2017 at 12:36 am

    It’s sad that one person can ruin a graduation . He needs to stay at home and let the graduation ceremony continue as always. It sad when no one will stand up to this ruling. Thanks for ruining graduation for my nephew. I thought TJ was better than this.

  2. Randy Gosey 04/09/2017 at 12:44 am

    Would take the penalty,sure every one would chip in.

  3. Staff Reporter 04/09/2017 at 6:54 am

    The penalty may mean the closing of the school, loss of school funds, and possibly a lawsuit. I’m sure people are not advocating that the laws be intentionally broken. There are more proper ways to address a change in laws.

  4. Kathy Owensby 04/09/2017 at 8:01 am

    I am with Mr. Gosey .. take the penalty. People have freedom of speech and let the Christians have their prayer.

  5. Brenda Metcalf 04/09/2017 at 1:44 pm

    All of these other so-called religions are just that….so called! There is but ONE GOD and ONE MEDIATORBETWEEN GOD AND MAN AND THAT IS CHRIST JESUS! I do know students at TJ but I will pray for them as they attend school there or at any other school. Lord Jesus please let others see Jesus in those who claim to be Christian. Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven. Thankful that I can continue to pray for our young people as they go out into a sinful world. Praying that they will trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and will know that Jesus is the Son of God who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Only one way to Heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. Too bad God’s Name cannot be called in a school or a board meeting without excuse as to why it cannot be. It is alright to bow your head and pray silently for these students and for their teachers and also for those who would call to discussion that prayer is offensive and against the law of this land.

  6. Susan 04/10/2017 at 1:03 pm

    This administration needs to focus on the needs of the children instead of the spiritual philosophies of the teachers. This is a school for ALL children. Glad a reasonable decision was met.

  7. Nora Fernanders 04/12/2017 at 5:19 pm

    Christian prayer is always appropriate at any occasion. Prayer hit us here and prayer will lead us to our destination in life. We move and live by answered prayer

  8. Sid 04/12/2017 at 6:49 pm

    The Law says “Congress shall make no law…”
    School prayer is NOT Congress making a law!

  9. Susan 04/13/2017 at 9:36 pm

    This school is literally named after a man who was a staunch supporter of separation of church and state! The school needs to be handling this hatred towards students who are of the religious minority. Religious freedom isn’t exclusive to Southern Baptists.

  10. gail taylor 04/24/2017 at 3:30 pm

    School events, including graduations may not include prayer. This is about the separation of church and state. Anyone who tries to make it about their right to believe or pray is wrong. Your rights end where another’s begin and not everyone is Christian nor a believer even if the majority are. What I see here is a disrespect for anyone who does not believe as you do. Our Constitution clearly upholds the separation of church and state. It is for the protection of people of all faiths or no faith. It is such a simple idea – would you want to be forced to listen to or pray for a religion other than your own. What then gives you the right to force your prayer on others? Doesn’t sound very “Christian” to me. I commend the brave and intelligent young man who brought this forward. Others would do well to educate themselves and be more respectful of all people. Some of worst conflict has occurred and is occurring because church and state has not been separate.

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