(2:25 PM) Clymer To End Baccalaureate, Prayers At Graduation After Complaint

Clymer students at their graduation in 2018. The school district will no longer host baccalaureate and prayer services following a complaint from a resident. P-J file photo

CLYMER – The Clymer Central School District will no longer host a baccalaureate service ahead of graduation in addition to removing prayer from the opening and closing of commencement.

The decades-long tradition will end following a notice from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking the school district to end what it viewed as “unconstitutional practices.”

The religious organization said it received a complaint from a “concerned Clymer resident” that such programs could cross constitutional boundaries separating church and state because the events were held in the school with members of district staff. The complaint stems from the 2018 senior class activities associated with graduation.

Baccalaureate services, optional for students, historically incorporate religious prayer and songs during a program dedicated to graduating seniors. The events are separate from graduation ceremonies.

“Clymer CSD will not be hosting baccalaureate service this year nor will we open or close our commencement ceremony with prayer,” Superintendent Ed Bailey wrote in an email to FFRF.

Bailey told The Post-Journal the school district had been operating in such fashion “forever” as far as he could remember, but noted that it will no longer host the events following the complaint.

In a press release, FFRF stated the organization was “appreciative of (Clymer’s) willingness of the district to rectify its mistakes.”

FFRF, a non-profit group with 31,000 members nationwide, maintains its purpose is to maintain the constitutional separation of church and state and raise awareness.

“Official endorsement of a religiously tinged baccalaureate ceremony and the infusion of prayers at the commencement is an affront to those who do profess Christianity,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “We’re glad school officials are toeing the constitutional line and ensuring that the ceremony to culminate 13 years of secular education remains free of proselytizing.”

FFRF asked the district to cease the practice of implementing religious prayers at commencement citing the court case Lee. v. Weisman that dealt with such issues.

FFRF cited Clymer’s baccalaureate service that was led by a district music teacher as to having scripture reading, the Lord’s Prayer recitation, a distribution of bibles messages from three pastors as cause for cancellation.

FFRF uploaded last year’s baccalaureate agenda to its website in announcing the end of the services.

Clymer’s commencement ceremony is being held June 27.