COLUMBIA — An Irmo High School graduate has sued to stop prayers at future graduation ceremonies.

Eighteen-year-old Matthew Nielson sued to block prayer, saying the invocation offered at his ceremony amounted to an endorsement of religion. Nielson says he had suggested a moment of silence for people to reflect or pray privately.

His lawsuit says school-sponsored voting that authorized a student to deliver an invocation violated the separation of church and state. Lexington-Richland 5 school officials say 61 percent of the seniors voted in favor of the prayer.

Superintendent Stephen Hefner says the prayer at graduation was initiated by students and offered by a student, so there was no violation.

Nielson brought the lawsuit with help from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Wisconsin.