OCS super: Baccalaureate to continue at OHS

Published 12:48 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

The battle over baccalaureate services at Opp High School isn’t an open and shut case.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart released a statement early Wednesday morning saying that the Opp Ministerial Association will continue to sponsor baccalaureate services at Opp High School as they have done in the past.

“Our board attorney is researching these issues,” Smithart said. “We will follow the Constitution of the United States to the letter of the law.”

Over the weekend, information surfaced that the Freedom From Religion Foundation had asked OHS to stop endorsing religion in its graduation activities.

In a letter to Smithart from FFRF Attorney Sam Grover, Grover cautioned the district that courts have ruled that public school graduation activities must be secular.

FFRF alleges that OHS scheduled baccalaureate services in the OHS auditorium on May 21, and during the activities OHS Principal Aaron Hightower led seniors in prayer.

On Tuesday, the Foundation for Moral Law, which is based in Montgomery, sent a letter to Smithart throwing its support to the Opp City School district.

“While claiming to advocate freedom from religion, the FFRF seeks to impose its own humanistic world view upon schoolchildren all across the nation,” said the organization’s senior counsel John Eidsmoe. “While inveighing against an establishment of religion, the FFRF seeks to establish it own religion of secular humanism, because that is what remains when all traditional religious references are removed from public education.”

Eidsmoe said that OCS does not have to cave in the FFRF’s demands.

“In 1991, I served as counsel for Verbena United Methodist Church in the case of Verbena United Methodist Church v. Chilton County Board of Education,” he said. “In this case, Federal District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that Verbena United Methodist Church could use the public high school auditorium to hold baccalaureate services for high school students.”

The Foundation of Moral Law offered its services to the Opp City Board of Education.

Smithart confirmed that they did send him a letter.

“We did not request their services nor do we require them at this time,” he said.