Prayer at Board Meetings

Overview

LISD is proud to be the home of students, staff, and families from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse religious beliefs. We prohibit discrimination against students and staff on the basis of religion. We do not endorse or demean any particular religious or secular belief. LISD has several board policies geared at protecting the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state.

Prayer at Meetings

The Board of Trustees of Leander ISD holds a workshop meeting and a regular board meeting each month.  The meetings are open to the public, and attendees are free to enter and leave at any time. The audience typically consists of staff and community members, with students occasionally in attendance.   The board opens each regular board meeting with an invocation led by a community member, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas pledge, typically delivered by a student in one of our ROTC programs.  The speakers face the board and direct their message to the board members.  The board president will often invite the attendees to stand and join the board in the prayer and pledges. No member of the audience is coerced in joining the prayer or pledges and may leave the room or remain seated.

The community member who leads the invocation is typically a member of a local religious organization. Throughout the year, LISD’s School and Community Relations department contacts the leaders of religious organizations in the community and extends the invitation to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees and lead the Board in prayer. The invitation is extended to congregations and religious organizations within the district.  Those individuals who express interest in attending a meeting are provided with possible dates. Speakers are not accepted or rejected based on their religious affiliation. Once confirmed, the speaker is given general information such as time and place of the meeting, and to please limit the invocation to about 2 minutes.  LISD officials do not preview the material or direct the speaker on what to say.

This practice is in keeping with the legal standard.  In 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “legislative prayer” has long been accepted and does not violate the law or Constitution.  Legislative prayer occurs when a governmental body opens its meetings with a brief, solemn prayer.  This is different from “school prayer,” which occurs when school officials require or coerce students to pray.  School prayer is prohibited. In March 2017, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prayer at school board meetings was legislative prayer, not school prayer.

The practice of opening regular school board meetings with a brief prayer delivered by various members of our religious community has been upheld by the courts of highest authority.  The Board welcomes all members of the community to attend meetings of the board, and respects each person’s right to accept or decline the invitation to join the board in the opening portion of these meetings.

Updated on June 15, 2018

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