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Hundreds attend Stokes Co. School Board meeting to support prayer

KING, N.C. — The Stokes County School Board said it will not stop praying at public meetings — and many in the community came out in support Monday night.

The board has come under fire after the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sent board members letters asking them to stop non-sectarian prayer before meetings.

The school board has responded to the group, saying they are doing nothing wrong. One law firm has offered to represent the board for free, if needed.

More than 800 people attended the board’s meeting in support of prayer. Organizers said they had to move the event to Poplar Springs Elementary School in King to accommodate the large crowd.

School Board Chair Mike Rogers began Monday’s meeting like many others, with a non-sectarian prayer.

The incident came after one parent made a complaint.

After receiving a complaint from one parent, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State wrote the school board, wanting them to stop praying. They were asked to eliminate prayer at high school graduations and have the school stop promoting baccalaureate services.

Greg Lipper of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said the school board is unlawfully promoting religion.

“The separation of church and state not only prevents the government from promoting one religion over another, but it also prevents the government from promoting religion over no religion,” Lipper said.

School board members said they do not promote baccalaureate ceremonies held off campus and organized solely by students.

They also said they do not promote student-lead prayer at graduations and the school.

They contend that because no specific god is mentioned in the board’s prayer they are doing nothing wrong.

Many attendants spoke out in favor of prayer at Monday’s meeting. Nobody spoke against it.

“If a child wants to pray in free will and accord let ‘em pray,” said Darryl Calloway. “If a school board wants to open a meeting with prayer let ‘em pray.”

Student Austin Bennett said that regardless of any policy, they will continue to pray together. And that is exactly what they did — hand-in-hand — as the board meeting went into recess.