East Liverpool students reject demand to remove Lord's Prayer from graduation

The senior class of Potters rejected the removal of tradition at their graduation ceremony. (WTOV)

A 70-year tradition at East Liverpool High School was removed from the graduation ceremony, but students weren't letting it go easily.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which advocates for separation of church and state, got wind of the school's prayer tradition. They told East Liverpool administrators they needed to stop their choir from singing the Lord's Prayer at graduation.

Rather than fighting legal battles, the school removed the song from Sunday's program. But instead of losing part of the ceremony, students decided to lead their own prayer.

Graduation at East Liverpool is filled with tradition, and this year students rejected change.

"I know a lot of my student body was uncomfortable with it, just because it is tradition to have prayer at our school," said Cami Post, class of 2016 vice president.

"The idea of one person or 2 or 3 standing up and saying they don't want prayer back in school or even singing or reciting is sad," said Pastor Rodney Ohler, Salineville Assembly of God.

Ohler and members of his church stood outside to support keeping the prayer in school.

Many parents say they were disappointed with the administration's decision, but some students and administrators say they don't want the issue to outshine student accomplishments.

"I think my class is very gifted. I think my class is super talented and that should be the focus," Post said.

School board president Larry Walton says they "got caught." The decision not to fight to keep singing the Lord's Prayer was all a matter of economics.

"We said 'okay, we just won't do it anymore.' It was a decision made because we don't have a lot of money and we'd rather hire teachers than pay lawyers," Walton explained.

But this year's graduates weren't backing down quite as easily.

We spoke to Cami Post before the commencement began.

"We'e really big at traditions at this school and I think it would've been nice to have the same as my brother had whenever he graduated," Post said.

We suspect Post was hiding a secret under her cap during the interview, because what happened next was an organized revolt.

Valedictorian Jonathan Montgomery took the stage and led the entire class of graduates in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

The students showed they're not letting the tradition go, and enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation followed.

Walton said he is looking into having a non-denominational baccalaureate service next year.

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