The Smith County Board of Education released the following statement on September 16, 2020.
The lawsuit filed against the Smith County Board of Education by the ACLU on behalf of Smith County residents Kelly Butler and his two minor children, and Jason and Sharona Carr and their two minor children was resolved on September 14, 2020 when United States District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. entered his Final Consent Decree and Order.
The Final Consent Decree and Order only requires that the Board adjust certain of its current practices to comply with the mandates of the First Amendment, while at the same time continuing to ensure that its students’ rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs be protected including their right to engage in constitutionally appropriate prayer. All actions that will be taken by the Board are in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools issued on January 16, 2020.
Under the terms of the Final Consent Decree and Order, the lawsuit will be dismissed. The Complaint filed to initiate the lawsuit made numerous allegations and asserted claims that the Board violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution through its “customs, policy and practice.” Most of the Complaint’s 82 paragraphs of allegations were determined to have no factual support, but some allegations potentially violated the requirements of the First Amendment as determined by the United States Supreme Court. Only because of this and its desire to ensure that its students’ rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs including their right to engage in constitutionally appropriate prayer continue to be protected, that the Board entered into the Final Consent Decree and Order that was entered by the Court. This resolution ensures Constitutionally appropriate prayer remains in schools.