Some members of the Georgetown County School Board will pray before Tuesday’s monthly workshop.
But, to make sure no laws are being violated, the prayer will not take place on school district property. Instead, the board and other district officials have been invited to a pre-meeting prayer at First Baptist Church on Highmarket Street.
The idea for the prayer session came from FBC Assistant Pastor Keith Wall who said the church has been studying ways to unify the church and community.
Wall describes himself as “a proactive person” who “tries to find solutions” to problems.
Acting on advice given by district attorney David Duff, Christian prayer at school board meetings and other district activities has been replaced with a moment of silence.
Duff’s advice was in response to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information request to all school districts in the state.
The organization is investigating religious activities that take place in schools and at school-related events.
“The Bible teaches us to pray for those in authority over us. We do that,” Wall said. “We are not trying to make a political statement. This is a Georgetown community issue.”
School Board Chairman Jim Dumm said he plans to be at the prayer session and has informed the other members of the board. He said he expects most, if not all, the members will attend.
Wall said he hopes other churches will hold the prayer sessions before future board meetings.
Moment of silence stays
Dumm said the board has no plans to pursue the prayer issue by calling in other attorneys.
At its meeting in September, Board member Teresa Bennani said she feels a second legal opinion is needed before a permanent decision is made about prayer within the district.
She said she would like to get advice from an attorney who specializes in First Amendment law.
“We need to get the best counsel we can get,” said Bennani, whose final board meeting is Tuesday.
Dumm said Thursday, as far as he is concerned, the issue is settled. He said he does not think another attorney will be brought in to address the matter.
“I really don’t like paying attorneys,” he said.
Earlier this week, Myrtle Beach City Council agreed to not use moments of silence. Instead, that panel has adopted a standard prayer that will be used at the start of each of its meetings.
The prayer that will be used begins with the words “Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of all that is or will ever be, accept our profound gratitude for this day, and all of its blessings of life and freedom.”
Dumm said he does not feel adopting such a prayer for the school board would solve the issue because it mentions “Almighty God” in the opening sentence.
He also said he has only heard from two people on the matter since the first moment of silence was held at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting.
By Scott Harper
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