Protest Held in Support of Prayer During ECISD Graduations

Protest Held in Support of Prayer During ECISD Graduations

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Students, parents and people from the community protested in front of the Ector County ISD administration building on Monday afternoon.

The protest comes just days after the district announced some changes during graduation ceremonies involving prayer.

With signs, megaphones and their faith, the group took to the streets and protested for prayer.

"This is my faith and I will stand for my faith no matter what it takes," Louvdie Piña, a senior at Odessa High School, said

"Christians also have rights and it's time someone stood up for those rights," Allen Sutphen, an Odessa resident, said.

On Friday, the Ector County Independent School District announced the words "invocation" and "benediction" during graduation ceremonies would have to be replaced with the words "opening" and "closing."

That's because the district wasn't within with the law when it came to policies on prayer.

A group called Americans United for the Separation of Church and State contacted ECISD and threatened a lawsuit if it wasn't changed.

"I feel like we're being discriminated against," Piña said.

"I feel again that they're disguising it," Bonnie Flores, the woman who organized the protest, said. "They're not saying you can openly do it."

"This country was founded on God," Sutphen said. "It's something we've been doing, they did it at my graduation in 1978 and there's no need to change it now because it offends somebody."

Monday's protest was filled with passion and a lot of emotion.

"Y'all keep standing up for Jesus and you'll always end up in the right place," Doyle Woodall, E.C.I.S.D Trustee, Position 4, told the crowd.

Woodall re-iterated that prayer is not banned from the ceremonies, but students now have the choice to pray if they want.

"Some of the finest Christian people I've ever met work in this building right here and this is not a local decision," Woodall said. "This is a decision that was forced on the state of Texas by the Supreme Court."

Woodall said change begins with the community and believes the protest is a good start.

"When they get sick and tired of it and start standing up at the ballot box then we'll see some of these laws changed," he said.

But until then, the group said they'll keep fighting and praying for what they believe in.

Graduation ceremonies are set to take place on Friday and Saturday.