N.C.O.E. Faces Possible Lawsuit For Prayer at Graduation

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By Evie Allen
By Randy Livingston

NORRIS CITY --. A group is calling on N.C.O.E. high school to take prayer out of its graduation ceremony or face a lawsuit.

Norris City is considered a quiet little town that holds tight to its traditions. But prayer at graduation has now been called into question.

"That was the first instance we've had of a complaint or anything in regards to this situation," says district Superintendent Dr. Cliff Karnes.

On Wednesday,  Karnes and Principal Matt Vollman received an e-mail from the American Humanist Association.

The letter says several students from the high school contacted the group complaining about a constitutional violation that has been occuring regularly under the authority of the school district.

The letter outraged father of three from Norris City, Henry Gross.

"My fifth grade son wouldn't take his prayer book because now he's afraid that I might get sued," shared an emotional Gross.

The letter also says "a school's encouraging or facilitating any prayer clearly fosters and endorses religion over non-religion, and so runs afoul of the First Amendment."

"What about my kids rights? Our kids constitutional rights, or freedom of speech, freedom of assembly?" questions Gross.

Karnes says right now the school district has turned the situation over to lawyers before making any moves. 

"We are investigating the merits of it, to see if there's any credibility behind it. We have to see how credible the source is. And we're going to be taking it under legal advisement from our attorney," says Karnes.

The letter serves as an official notice and "demands that the school terminate this and any similar illegal activity immediately"or the school may face a federal lawsuit.

The superintendent says whatever happens he hopes the community will come together.

"Because of our location and where we're at, we have to have each other. So we don't want it to become a divisive situation within the students," says Karnes.

The issue has stirred up many arguments on both sides. The American Humanist Association has given the school two weeks to respond or face the lawsuit. 

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