The American Civil Liberties Union has asked 2nd District Judge George Reinhardt for a court order stopping prayer in the Grangeville School District before high school graduation in May.
The lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of Phyllis Wright Harris of Grangeville and her three children.The ACLU earlier filed the case in U.S. District Court but dismissed that action two weeks ago because it wanted a decision before graduation at Grangeville High School, where Beverly Harris is a senior.
The ACLU contends prayer at graduation ceremonies amounts to "allowing, promoting and engaging in illegal religious activities in public schools," and therefore is unconstitutional.
In the complaint, Beverly Harris, 17, an honor student at Grangeville High, said she was "deeply and strongly opposed" to prayers at graduation. Because she holds different religious views than others, the complaint said, the religious practice sets her apart from her peers.
"By including prayer in public school functions over my opposition, I feel like school officials are telling me that I am not as good as the other students," Harris said in an affidavit filed with the suit. "I also feel as if I am being pressured to conform and to accept someone else's version of what is an acceptable religious belief."
The school district's insurance company has hired Idaho Falls attorney Scott Marotz to represent the district. Marotz also is representing Rexburg's Madison School District in a similar federal lawsuit by the ACLU.