PALMYRA TOWNSHIP — Some veterans are choosing not to participate in a Veterans Day ceremony at Wallenpaupack Area High School because school officials say they are following constitutional law by not allowing prayer.
“Almighty God, Father of all mankind and judge over nations, we pray thee,” recites Pat Thompson, a board member with the American Legion Post 311 in Hawley.
The prayer Thompson is reciting is one of the prayers the legion’s chaplain reads before and after American Legion meetings.
Some American Legion members in Hawley wanted this prayer, or something similar, to be read at their annual Veterans Day ceremony at Wallenpaupack High School outside Hawley.
But the school superintendent says it’s not allowed.
“It goes back to an issue we had last year concerning graduation. We had a challenge to the fact we invited clergy to the graduation ceremony to give benediction and invocation,” said Wallenpaupack School Superintendent Michael Silsby.
After some research, Superintendent Silsby found a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which states prayer at an official district function is unconstitutional.
So because of that, American Legion Post 311 in Hawley, which has participated at the school-run event for several years, is backing out.
“We feel with our chaplain saying a prayer does not establish a religion,” said Thompson.
The American Legion Post 311 in Hawley will be recognizing and honoring Veterans Day at Bingham Park, in front of the veterans monument.
The American Legion holds a ceremony there every year. At the ceremony, their chaplain will have a prayer to bless the troops, veterans and our country.
So far, these American Legion members have been receiving support in the community.
“They should stand up for themselves,” said Sandra Wagst of Hawley.
“I wouldn’t do it either because God is good and God should have never been taken out of the school system,” said Linda Simons of Hawley.
American Legion members have also been receiving messages of support from people throughout their community.
“At least somebody out there believes in God and doesn’t mind saying they do,” said American Legion Post Commander William Kemmett.
The superintendent of Wallenpaupack says it’s disappointing the American Legion Post 311 in Hawley won’t be attending.
The Veterans Day ceremony is November 11 at the high school.