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ACLU: Ten Commandments, Christian hymn in Lee Co. school violate First Amendment

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 02 2014 04:47:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 02 2014 09:45:39 PM CDT

A letter has brought some changes to the Thomas Walker High School graduation exercises scheduled this week.

LEE COUNTY, Va. -

For the first time since the first graduating class at Thomas Walker High School in Lee County, a song will not be sung.

A letter received by the Lee County school system from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia addressed what it called 'multiple First Amendment violations.' Click here to read the letter (PDF).

One of the alleged violations is the singing of the song "'Til We Meet Again at Jesus' Feet" at graduation. The letter has prompted more than one change at the county's smallest high school.

Since Thomas Walker High School held its first graduation in the 1940-41 school year, a song has been sung by the graduates, a tradition that has continued up until now. "It's been a tradition at Thomas Walker since the school started in 1940-41. The actual song "'Til We Meet Again at Jesus' Feet' has been sung, and there's not been a concern or issue brought forth by anyone at the school or any member of the community," Superintendent Mark Carter said.

But the issue arrived in the form of a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia addressing three main issues: the song, a plaque of the Ten Commandments, and teachers involved in Christian club activities. "The principal removed the 10 Commandments and the song that was addressed in the letter has been stricken from the graduation program. They will no longer be required to learn that song, or to practice or sing it at graduation," Carter says.

But is the issue over? Yard signs have popped up around the county with a simple phrase -- "Keep praying and singing Thomas Walker."

As the superintendent told us, until the letter arrived no complaints have ever been heard. "No parents came forward, no one from the community came forward. We just received the letter on May 22 from the American Civil Liberties Union addressing several issues at Thomas Walker High School," Carter repeated.

Graduation is set for this Friday night.

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