ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Officials for a North Carolina school district are condemning Christian prayers at a recent event honoring war veterans a violation of district policy.
The North Buncombe High School Band Boosters hosted the ceremony this past weekend as a kick-off to its “Field of Honor” flag display in honor of those who have served in the U.S. military. According to reports, the event also served as a fundraiser for the band’s goal to travel to Hawaii to perform at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade.
The event, which was held off school property, was organized by the band boosters and attendance was voluntary. However, because the event included prayers that referenced the name of Jesus, some students and at least one parent lodged a complaint to school officials. Local Pastor Jim Dykes presented both and invocation and a benediction at the ceremony.
North Buncombe Principal Jack Evans stated that he heard a complaint from one student, as well as a mother who identifies as a pagan.
“Basically she felt like it was inclusive of only one religion,” he told the Citizen-Times. “With it being a school event, even though it was off campus and on private property, unfortunately they are probably right. That is against the policy.”
The district holds to a religion policy that requires schools to “neither advance nor inhibit any religion or religious belief, viewpoint, expression, or practice.”
Evans stated that he believes the ceremony should have more diverse to reflect a variety of faiths or no faith.
“As a school event, we should be following the expectations of our school system, and therefore it should have been more inclusive,” he said. “But it’s a learning opportunity for us.”
The district has agreed, stating that because the ceremony solely presented prayers in the name of Jesus, the invocations were a violation of the religion policy.
“The event, while not on campus, included all members of the [North Buncombe High School] marching band, so it is against the policy as it’s a school-related function,” spokesman Jason Rhodes told the Citizen-Times.
But some area residents support the prayers, and state that those who complained did so knowing in advance that the prayer was going to be a part of the ceremony.
“Some students and one parent [complained]. One parent. One,” wrote commenter Joe Browning. “It’s amazing how all it takes is one to turn the whole thing around. Imagine if the majority would rise up against the one that is causing issues. The one would shut their mouths and not have a foot to stand on. Instead, P.C. takes over and the ‘one’ becomes the majority and the majority becomes the minority.”
“The Supreme Court just stated recently that prayer is not a violation of separation of church and state,” added Anthony Phillips. “Some of you need to stop being so thin skinned and ‘politically correct” when it comes to the rights and freedoms of others. You don’t like prayer, then don’t pray, but don’t try to force your non-religious views on others by telling them they cannot pray.”