Odessa Parents, Students March in Protest Over Prayer at Graduation

- ODESSA, TX – Upcoming graduations in Odessa will not include any reference to prayer – a change that has upset some parents and students.

Approximately 50 protesters held brightly-colored posters outside the Ector County ISD building on Monday and spoke out with the use of a megaphone. 

Nathan Coudding, 8, said, “Basically, we have the right to pray, because all of this was created by Him,”

"It’s a thank you to God to say, ‘Thank you for making this earth, making us,’ because without Him today, none of this would have been here,” said Coudding.

“This has been a tradition since the beginning of time,” said parent Allen Sutphen.

“I'm proud that our kids are standing up for what they believe is right,” said Sutphen. “This country was founded on God and there’s no need to change it now,” said Sutphen.

The decision to omit prayer was a reaction to a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group sent a letter to ECISD saying the district was not in compliance with state law. 

“The school district had a policy of having the students vote on whether or not to have a prayer at the graduations or not. This was in clear violation of a U.S. Supreme Court case,” said Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex Luchenitser.

Luchenitser also said parents have no reason to be upset.

“They [school officials] haven't prohibited students from praying - just said we’re not going to do anything that encourages students to pray one way or another,” said Luchenitser.

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