Advising that a moment of silence is the preferable way to open school board meetings, the Freedom from Religion Foundation has sent a letter to the Killeen Independent School District.
Dated Dec. 7, the letter is signed by Sam Grover, associate counsel for the Wisconsin-based foundation. The letter’s purpose is to alert KISD to “constitutional concerns and community objections to the practice of scheduling prayer” at KISD board meetings.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has 30,000 members nationally, and 1,300 members in Texas, according to the letter.
The foundation previously sent a letter to KISD on Aug. 6, 2015, about the same issue. KISD Superintendent John Craft responded to that letter on Aug. 26, 2015, acknowledging the district would “evaluate our policies, practices and procedures to ensure compliance with the law.”
The foundation’s letter acknowledges the case, American Humanist Association vs. Birdville Independent School District, which was decided by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision allows student-led statements that “could include an invocation” to take place at school board meetings.
Given that the KISD board meeting prayers are led by board members, however, the Dec. 7 letter from the foundation urges KISD to “voluntarily cease opening its meetings with prayer.” The letter continues, “Replacing the prayer practice with a moment of silence would allow the Board’s meetings to come to order without ostracizing a significant portion of those in attendance.”
In response to the letter, Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer, said, “The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s opposition to prayer does not supersede the authority of the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees whose duly elected members have the responsibility under Texas law to govern the district.”
Abbott continued, “The practice implemented by the Killeen ISD school board after the 2015 contact was for the board president, at each meeting, to allow a board member to voluntarily either give the invocation or to lead the board in a moment of silence. That practice continues.”