Horry County schools stand by current religious policies

Horry County schools are among the dozens of districts in the state under fire for religious practices. They aren't planning on changing anything after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a Freedom of Information Act request to all South Carolina public school districts asking for their policy on religious activity.

Monday, Georgetown County School District leaders decided to remove prayer from all school-related events - including graduations, football games and school board meetings.

"This really wasn't a school board decision," said Jim Dumm, chairman of the Georgetown County Board of Education told WPDE's sister station WCIV.

"We want to make sure that everything we do is following within the guidelines of Supreme Court rulings. And, it's very clear to us now, that we've talked with our attorney, that what we're going to do by having a moment of silence will fall within that ruling."

Historically, Georgetown school board meetings opened with a prayer from different representatives from churches in the area to come and open up meetings with a benediction.

Horry County Board of Education meetings begin with an invocation, led usually by a school board member.

"They usually are asking for guidance to make the best choices for the students, and the community," Horry County schools spokeswoman Teal Britton said.

"We've had a number of complaints from all around the state, different kinds of complaints about religion in the schools," Victoria Middleton with the ACLU said . "The government can't impose a particular religion on people. It can't establish or require certain practice."

In January, a federal lawsuit was settled in which Chesterfield County schools was sued for holding a prayer rally at a school assembly and prayers at official events.

The school district admitted to violating the separation of church and state.

Under the consent decree from the judge, school officials may not encourage prayers at events or allow endorsement of religion in the classroom.

The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a middle-school student who objected to the evangelical assembly and other Christian activities at school.

Meantime, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a team of legal experts on religious freedom., sent letters of their own to the school districts warning of intimidation from the ACLU.

As for Horry County, they aren't planning on changing any policies, as Britton said.

"We have not issued any directive to change any of the procedures or policies that are currently in place because we believe what is in place are those things that are compliant with our policy and with law," Britton added.