School dedication prayer raises questions in Rutherford County

School dedication prayer raises questions in Rutherford County (Image 1)

A Rutherford County official's Christian prayer at a recent school dedication is raising questions about prayer in schools and public gatherings.

Rutherford County Commissioner Steve Sandlin led a prayer at the dedication of Stewarts Creek High School in Smyrna on Sunday.

The prayer raised many eyebrows, especially for First Amendment experts who say it was a violation of current law that was passed by the Supreme Court in 1962, which prohibits organized prayer in the public school system.

Rutherford County School Board officials told News 2 Sandlin was a scheduled speaker for the dedication, but the prayer was not scheduled.  

“Mr. Sandlin was one of the many speakers that day and he chose to say a prayer during part of his speech,” said District Spokesman James Evans.

However, there are some who support Sandlin's prayer including a fellow county commissioner.

Brad Turner, who was in attendance that day, said he fully supports his colleague's decision.

“I'm also a Christian, so I'm very sensitive to issues such as this and I was very proud of him for doing that. It got the biggest applause of the day, which I know wasn't his intention,” Turner said.

He continued, “His intention was to honor God and thank him for a beautiful facility like this for our community. I was proud of him for doing it, and if I was in his position, I would have done the same thing.”

The Rutherford County Commission is allowed to conduct what is called a “legislative prayer,” provided that it does not promote one religion over another.

Incidentally, Commissioner Turner is also the commission chaplain and he leads those prayers every county commission meeting.

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