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Valedictorian Sues School Over Commencement Prayer

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - A high school valedictorian has sued his high school in Indiana saying the school cannot override the Constitution's separation of church and state simply because the senior class voted to hold a prayer session at commencement.

In his federal complaint, Eric Workman says that graduates and the audience should not be forced into a "religious exercise" during graduation ceremonies at Greenwood Community High School

Workman, 18, says that in September 2009 the school had seniors fill out ballots during an assembly, to vote on whether to pray at graduation.

Many students voted against it, Workman says, but "a majority of the seniors voted to have the prayer and therefore it would be occurring at the graduation."

Workman says it is customary for Greenwood to have a prayer at graduation, if the seniors vote for one, and that he has seen prayer offered at previous graduation ceremonies.

Workman says he "does not believe that anyone should involuntarily be subjected to prayer and religious belief."

He claims that the public high school and its principal have "established a forum, in the school itself, for religious debate and have subjected religious practice to a majority vote," which he believes violates the Constitution.

Workman, who is ranked first in his class academically, will speak at his graduation ceremony on May 28, he says.

Workman demands an injunction. He is represented by Kenneth Falk with the ACLU of Indiana.

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