Berkeley County School Board suspends prayer at meetings

Berkeley County School Board suspends prayer at meetings

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Berkeley County School District facing a potential lawsuit over the prayer they do at the start of each board meeting. They received a letter from a national organization fighting for separation of church and state stating they were in violation of the Constitution.

"I believe we've been doing it for over 30 years," said Mack McQuillin, district two board member.

Tuesday night, for the first time, the school board opened it's meeting with a moment of silence.

"During the moment of silence, I prayed," said McQuillin.

The group that sent the letter is called Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Their associate legal director, Alex Luchenister, says the only reason they went after Berkeley County School District is because they received a complaint from someone in that community.
Luchenister says the school board is violating the First Amendment by reciting the same Christian prayer at the start of each meeting.

"What they do is they target small school districts, like ours, and they basically make their money by bullying them," said McQuillin.

In the past, the organization has filed suits against municipalities and school districts if the prayers continued after their initial letter.

"We're not trying to force our believes on anybody," said McQuillin.

McQuillin says he feels that they are in the clear, under a newly passed South Carolina law.

"South Carolina has a new law that was enacted this year and signed by the Governor. The bill's primary sponsor is Charleston, South Carolina Senator Chip Campsen. It sets for a constitutionally permissible procedure for school boards like our to have prayers at meetings."

McQuillin hopes they can find a way to keep prayer in the meetings.

"Prayer isn't divisive, it's what unifies us as a school board," said McQuillin.

The school board will continue to start their meetings with a moment of silence, until their legal team looks into what they can and cannot do.

Once the school board makes a decision about how they want to move forward, they will vote on it.

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