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Group to File Second Complaint about Houston Graduation | News

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Group to File Second Complaint about Houston Graduation
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A religious skeptics' group says they plan to file another formal complaint to the Houston County Board of Education, contending that two graduation services last month were more like church services.

Andrew Seidel, attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says he is drafting a second complaint and intends to send it to Superintendent Robin Hines later today.

He says the second complaint is based on concerns from three people who contacted the FFRF, regarding prayers and religious songs at the Perry High School graduation.

Seidel said the FFRF has now received five complaints from four people about the Perry and Veterans High ceremonies.

Superintendent Hines said he would not comment about the complaints.

School spokeswoman Beth McLaughlin said she was not aware of the additional complaints, but said, "It's our districts intent to comply with prevailing law in these matters."

Monday, Seidel said the Veterans complaint referenced an opening prayer, gospel music and a speech by Superintendent Robins Hines that "morphed into a sermon."

He says courts have ruled school-sponsored prayers are a violation of the First Amendment.

"The graduation prayer in itself is unconstitutional, and the courts have been quite clear on that," he said.

He says they'd prefer to work out the matter with the district. But their options include filing a lawsuit.

His letter asks Hines to "immediately take action to ensure that the graduation ceremonies at all Houston County schools do not inculde prayer or religious musical performances in the future."

Seidel also criticized the performance of "Find Your Wings," orginally recorded by gospel singer Mark Harris.

The song's explicitly Christian message, he writes, "excludes not only non-evangelical Christians, but Jewish, Muslim and non-religious students and their families."

"Public schools should not be seeking out songs that exclude students and create a divisive atmosphere. Bullying is rampant in schools and on social media, and Houston County schools should be striving (to) find inclusive, secular songs that all can enjoy without compromising their own personal beliefs."

And he concludes by telling Hines, "That you would not know or honor the Constitution of the United States is shocking."

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