The controversy erupted on July 30 when the American Civil Liberties Union went to federal court seeking to ban prayer from public school graduations.
Governor Norman H. Bangerter, who backs prayer at graduation ceremonies, feels that it is a local issue, and that the courts and lawmakers should stay out of it. However, Michele Parish-Pixler, state director of the ACLU, says that the state spends a lot of money to promote tourism, yet the state is "reluctant to give up its church-state status" and "the message goes out to corporate America that this is a hardship post."
Seventy percent of Utah's residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — more commonly known as the Mormons. Many of the state's non-Mormons feel they live in a narrow-minded theocracy, dominated by one religion.
The U.S. Supreme Court banned organized school-sponsored prayer in 1962.