Opening Prayer 
By Alex Saitta 
October 4, 2016 
 
Below is a letter I wrote a week after Terry Cassell wrote a letter (see below) saying I brought up the prayer issue again because of political reasons. In the end, when the attorney was finally contacted, he agreed the law had changed, and the policy be changed pronto. The board voted to do that on September 26th, as I had suggested back in June.  
 
 
 
Dear Editor, 
Iím responding to Terry Cassellís letter, where she opposed my efforts to bring Christian prayer back to school board meetings. 
 
First she is missing the big picture. There is an element of society aiming to sanitize the public square of all religious expression. The Deep South is the last stronghold of such expression, so it is the focus of groups like the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). We need more leaders who know the prayer laws, and have the courage to stand up for faith and against these anti-religion zealots. While Cassell doesnít realize it, she has aligned herself with their cause and needs to take a look at the big picture. 
 
Cassell asked why is Alex the only trustee fighting for this? I donít know and frankly Iím shocked Pickens County trustees have twice blocked efforts to bring Christian prayer back to our board meetings. Closing schools, eliminating classroom teaching positions/ raising class sizes and blocking Christian prayer, they are on the wrong side of all these issues.     
 
Cassell speculated I brought the issue up again for political reasons. No. Unbeknownst to her the law recently changed and now supports Christian prayer at board meetings.   
 
In 2004 the Federal 4th Circuit Court ruled in Wynne v. the Town of Great Falls, prayers at the opening of government meetings must be non-sectarian (to God, Lord, Father). Accordingly, our school board policy states the opening prayer, given by rotating board members, must be non-sectarian.   
 
Cassell doesnít realize in late-2014 the US Supreme Court struck down that 4th Circuit ruling, said the non-sectarian requirement was unconstitutional, and stated government bodies like the school board canít tell the prayer givers whom to pray to and how.   
 
I then supported crafting a new policy to bring Christian prayer back to the board meetings. The policy was written by the school districtís attorney and was reviewed and deemed legal by the state attorney general.   
 
The board voted down the policy in early-2015. All the trustees agreed the policy was legal, but half still feared the ACLU and FFRF.  
 
Eighteen months later on June 9, 2016, the legislature passed and Governor Haley signed a law recognizing the Supreme Courtís ruling the prayers could be sectarian or in Jesusí name.   
 
With that Supreme Court ruling and the new state law in hand, at the June 27th meeting I requested the chairman ask our attorney for legal advice. Breaking with school board practice, chairman Judy Edwards refused. I asked again at the August meeting. Edwards said she had asked for advice, but would not hear back until January. Normally that takes 2 or 3 days. Realizing she was stonewalling, the press reported the story.  
 
When it is my turn to give the prayer, I pray in Jesusí name. School board policy forbids that, but the Supreme Court and new state law says I can. The law has changed and board members need to join me in taking a stand.     
 
Alex Saitta 
School Board Trustee Ė Pickens