by Allie Martin
(AgapePress) – A federal appeals court has cleared the way for students in one Florida school district to pray at graduation ceremonies.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the practice in Duval County, Florida, schools of having student-initiated and student-led prayers at commencement exercises. The legality of the policies had been in doubt following the ruling last summer by the U.S. Supreme Court which banned student-led prayers at football games in Santa Fe, Texas.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, says the two cases are clearly different.
“The school had a policy that said we’re not going to pre-censor or review the speeches of students. That’s an imminently reasonable policy,” Fahling says. “So, the distinction was that students could or might not have religious content in their messages it was entirely up to the students rather than the Santa Fe case, where the specific policy contemplated only religious speech. So there really was no choice in the Santa Fe case.”
Fahling says the Florida ruling means that school districts nationwide can have prayers at graduation ceremonies as long as school staff and administrators are not involved.
(This update courtesy of Agape Press.)
Michigan Families Wary of “Deep Ecology” Teaching in Schools
by Sherrie Black
(AgapePress) – Parents in one Michigan school system are concerned about an environmental education program with possible links to pagan religions.
The fate of an environmental program at Port Huron, Michigan, schools rests in the hands of school officials amid allegations of Wiccan and pagan religions being taught to fourth-graders. CNSNews reports the “Earthkeepers” program includes the practice of having children gather in circles and recite text in unison. It also establishes “magic spots” where children reflect in nature.
The program is run by a non-profit organization called Earth Learning Adventures, and teaches young kids about man’s relationship to the earth. However, opponents say techniques in the program draw distinct parallels with Wicca. Some Port Huron parents are concerned that the author of the Earthkeepers program holds to a philosophy called “Deep Ecology,” which has its roots in Wiccan culture.
Some supporters of “Deep Ecology” believe that for humans to remain in the same lifestyles as today, there must be a population decrease.
According to Martin Prout, head of the 13-member advisory commission that will rule on the program, the educators are more interested in the academic merits of the program than the real or perceived religious and political overtones.