The ACLU announced Thursday that the Chesterfield County, South Carolina school board has voted to adopt a proposed settlement agreement in suit filed against it last month challenging religious activities in the schools. The complaint focused particularly on an an evangelical revival assembly held at New Heights Middle School, but also alleged other instances of prayer and proselytizing as part of school events. A posting on the school district's website says that the board approved the proposed consent decree at a special meeting on Thursday by a vote of 6-3, explaining:
Following legal advice that various practices and events in the schools related to religion needed to stop occurring, based on court decisions interpreting the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Board majority approved the consent decree and order. The consent decree and order recognizes that students and teachers do have rights under the Free Exercise and Free Speech provisions of the First Amendment to pray at school under certain conditions and to participate in other religious activities.
The Board was advised that defending the lawsuit would result in a court-imposed order after many thousands of dollars had been spent on legal costs. The Board wishes to make it clear that it intends to abide by the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, while also recognizing and allowing the permissible exercise of religion by its staff and students and all citizens.