The man who filed the original complaint about prayer and gospel music at a Houston County graduation says he didn't expect the issue to cause so much controversy in the community.
Wes Bryant says he does plan to pursue the issue, if he does not get a response from the Houston County Board of Education in the next few weeks. He says he is considering sending his complaint to the Georgia Department of Education.
Wes Bryant, who is an active-duty member of the military stationed in Pittsboro, North Carolina, says he made a complaint to Houston County Superintendent Robins Hines, after attending his niece's graduation.
Bryant sent a letter to Hines complaining about the organization of the event, a student a giving a Christian prayer at the invocation, a student singing a Christian song that was Christian-based, and the superintendent's speech to students telling graduates to "live their life with a faith in the Christian god."
Bryant said by phone, "One belief system or lack there of, should not be basically endorsed as the way in life to be successful for the student body or all the people attending. It's a very unethical thing. It can be angering to some people. It can make some people incredibly disheartened and feel alienated and even in some ways, oppressed by their community. That they are not really a part of their community, because they are different in their beliefs. So it's wrong in every way and I would not do the same thing in his situation"
Bryant says he is an atheist, but would not support a school official publicly endorsing any religion or lack-there-of, including atheism.
He said as a member of the military who recently returned from a deployment, it was upsetting to feel that his personal beliefs were being "attacked and alienated."
Byrant wrote in an e-mail to 13WMAZ, "What should separate this country from our enemies is that we stand for and represent all people of all beliefs provided they are, of course, peaceful. We should not alienate others who do not believe a certain way, and certainly should not impose our belief system onto them, be it directly or indirectly through our actions and behavior. When we do that, in my strong opinion, we begin coming that much closer to being not too far off from the very enemies we fight against."
Superintendent Robin Hines has declined to comment on the issue and says he has not responded to Bryant's letter of complaint.
Mercer Law Professor David Oedel looked at the letters sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to Hines, regarding the graduation ceremony complaints.
Oedel said despite the Freedom from Religion Foundation's assertions, he does not believe that this is a clear-cut case. In fact, he said he believes the Board of Education may have a strong case that Hines' comments were protected speech.
Oedel looked at case law cited by the foundation and said it does not appear to apply to this particular circumstance.
The FFRF filed a second formal complaint with the Board of Education Tuesday, following three complaints to them about similar prayers and songs at the Perry High School graduation.