Prayer session scheduled prior to Jan. 28 school board meeting

By Karen Brewer
Special to the Courier

COUNTY — All community members who wish to express their support for the Pickens County school board to continue student-led prayer before the beginning of school board meetings are invited to meet for a time of prayer at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28 outside the school district administration building.

The meeting comes in response to a recent complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation over the school board’s student-led invocations at scheduled meetings.

During this time of prayer, set to begin one hour before the 7 p.m. school board meeting, students representing all four high schools in Pickens County will pray, as will pastors representing several different denominations of the Christian faith, including representatives from the Piedmont Baptist Association, the Pickens-Twelve Mile Baptist Association, the Pickens Ministerial Association and the Liberty Ministerial Association.

“A prayer or invocation at a public meeting such as a school board is an important part of our community’s tradition,” State Sen. Larry Martin said recently. “I am hopeful that the school board’s legal advice will enable it to keep this important part of its meetings and avoid a legal challenge.”

Sen. Martin sponsored a bill that became the “South Carolina Public Invocation Act” passed by the General Assembly in 2008.
“I chaired the subcommittee that took the federal court cases from this area of the law and attempted to provide guidance to a public body such as a school board to legally have an invocation,” he said. “I’ve encouraged them to contact the Attorney General’s office for assistance.”

Easley native Dr. Robert Dickard, the new director of missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association, said that Chesterfield County, where he served as director of missions for the Chesterfield Baptist Association, faced a situation last year similar to what Pickens County is now facing.

“The school board, the middle school principal and the superintendent were named in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a group for the separation of church and state,” he said.

“The issue was about an assembly program with a Christian singer and speaker. I believe we could have prevailed in court, but the school board decided to not spend the money to defend themselves in court. They signed an agreement that severely limited their constitutional rights. Among the things they agreed to were: No high school band could march or perform in a Christmas parade, the school mascot had to be re-designed (the ACLU ‘saw’ a cross painted in the eye of the eagle mascot), teachers were not allowed to bow their heads and pray silently at the lunch table with students present, all ‘religious’ pictures and symbols had to be removed from the classroom and building. One teacher had to remove a picture of her grandson because there was a Christian flag in the background. For the next five years, every school assembly has to be approved by the ACLU.

“If we buckle under the threats now facing Pickens County, we will have a similar outcome. We must stand together and defend our constitutional rights. Let’s not lose them one inch at a time.”
For more information about the prayer meeting, contact Karen Brewer by e-mail at