Grrr, TIL about Bible Belters flagrantly violating the Establishment Clause with open school prayer!

If you follow The Friendly Atheist, you’ll see that this kind of thing is hardly uncommon. And while there aren’t christians firebombing houses, with any public sign or symbol disagreeing with the Truth of Christianity, you darn well better expect it to be quickly vandalized.


The Christians aren’t firebombong houses because they are too busy setting fire to mosques.

… as long as it isn’t mandatory or compulsory, of course.

Yes, it IS.

But even that cedes too much ground. The Texas football game prayers were student led, outside of school hours, not compulsory, but still found unconstitutional in a 6-3 decision.

I assume there are more details as otherwise, that would be abridging those student’s rights to their own freedom of religion.

My guess would be that it was deemed to seem compulosry.

I am not persuaded that a school-sponsored football game, in which the facilities are maintained by the school, the coaches are paid by the school, and the school provides awards (letters, etc.) to participants while dictating that certain grades must be maintained to permit participation really counts as “outside of school hours.”

Well, it was high school football in Texas. That *is *mandatory, isn’t it? :smiley:

Indeed, whether the event is mandatory and would result in a captive audience for the religious conduct does seem to be a significant factor that courts have considered in deciding if a particular intersection of religion and public school activities is constitutional. But it is not an entirely deterministic factor.

Graduation ceremonies have been deemed another potential mandatory event and details matter. The school inviting outside adults (minister, rabbi, imam, or whoever) to give a prayer has been deemed unconstitutional as a violation of the Establishment Clause. The idea that attendance is theoretically voluntary was deemed an inadequate justification to permit school sponsored prayer at a graduation as attendance at one’s graduation is not really “voluntary”. See Lee v Weisman from 1992 where Justice Kennedy wrote:

However student initiated speech of a religious nature may be permissible during a graduation event. An 11th Circuit case, Adler v. Duval County School Board from 1997 ultimately upheld a prayer provided by a student during a graduation ceremony. The SCOTUS sent the case back to the appeals court to reconsider in light of the Santa Fe decision we have discussed in this thread. In 2001 the 11th Circuit upheld the earlier ruling permitting the prayer and SCOTUS denied further appeal letting that ruling stand.

So the school is not permitted to organize an invocation, but if the valedictorian is traditionally permitted to give a speech and one year the valedictorian chooses to offer a prayer as a part of that speech then that would seem to be on sound constitutional footing.

I don’t believe the bar is that high, “mandatory” or “compulsory”. It would appear that if it seems to be implicitly endorsed by the school authorities, that is enough. Which is as it should be. They should not tip their hands as to which religion they prefer, if indeed any at all.

ETA: From the majority opinion: “Regardless of the listener’s support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school’s seal of approval.”

I think it’s outside school hours if you can skip it and not be considered a truant.

ETA: Or, in the case of a teacher like my wife, as violating your contract–which specifies school hours down to the minute.

And I’m fine with that too. :cool:

That’s just saying that is wasn’t actually voluntary, though. So it still fits.

That said, I do find myself realizing that there is another aspect that I forgot about before. The school can’t be seen as endorsing any particular religion, either. Still, I’d say that the ultimate reason for that is that it creates a sense that agreeing with them is compulsory.

I mean, that’s the underlying issue. All the constitution says is that Congress shall not make any law establishing a religion. This has been extended to any government actor who acts in that sort of role, which includes school faculty, since they make rules. It doesn’t say anything about them having to hide their religion from anyone.

Not being able to endorse a religion is just about the idea that you are a state actor coercing students, and thus infringing on their religious freedom.

What I know is that I was perfectly legally allowed to get together with some of my band mates and pray the Lord’s Prayer before going out on the field. It was completely optional, and literally everyone took it as optional. Hence there must be something else that made it seem compulsory in the Texas case. Something that made it seem like the school was endorsing a religion, instead of just students doing it on their own.

I haven’t read the specific ruling in the case, but I can certainly think of elements that would suggest an improper appearance of endorsement.
[li]The event is sponsored by the school and/or organized by school staff in their capacity as agents of the school.[/li][li]The event is centered on a group associated with and endorsed by the school.[/li][li]The organizers of the event schedule time in the event for the religious observance.[/li][li]The person uses school-provided or school-controlled resources (e.g., the PA system) to perform the observance.[/li][/ul]
In less formal terms–it’s a school event, everyone knows it’s a school event, and school employees expected, intended, and enabled someone to lead a prayer. The fact that the school, or employees of the school managing a school event, devoted time and/or resources to a prayer makes it appear that governmental authority figures consider the prayer a good thing. (I.e., it constitutes an implicit endorsement.)

So, yes, a group of band students (or football players, or just random spectators) forming a huddle in the stands or on the sidelines and praying does not raise Constitutional concerns. The school is not providing them with anything to encourage or support the activity. They can even invite, say, the band director to join them–but it would be improper the other way around, because the director is a governmental authority figure.

This sounds like constitutional originalism, which is certainly a going concern (even after the death of Antonin Scalia, its most ardent advocate). But it’s far from the only approach to judicial review. Look at how far the Commerce Clause has been bent beyond recognition, for just one example.

I mean, sure: if we are going to interpret the U.S. Constitution the way we would a contemporary legal contract between businesses, then you (and the originalists) are right. But the progressive approach I prefer is to treat the text as a starting point, a general framework, and then apply a modern set of principles to reasoning out the problem or dispute before you.

And not endorsing any particular religion extends to not favoring one over another.

In the Santa Fe case one of the several problematic issues the court noticed is that the school had advised the invited ministers to provide a non-denominational prayer. By doing so the court stated the school was preferring non-nondenominationalism over any particular denomination. In the Santa Fe case this was used as further proof that the prayer was impermissibly sponsored by the school since the school was in some way limiting or choosing what not to include in the prayer.

So if a prayer is going to be a part of a school event in one of the limited permissible ways then the school cannot limit the contents of that prayer.

The latest news on this front.

That was the story that spurred this woman to say on Facebook that at her school no one complained.

Well, /some/ really conservative fundamentalist Christians. None of the conservative Christians I’ve known. None of the fundamentalist Christians I’ve known (using those words in their technical sense), and none of the “conservative fundamentalist” Christians I’ve known.

Some of the “conservative fundamentalist” Christians I’ve known (in the loosest possible sense of the words) would object to female leadership, either explicitly or just feel uncomfortable with it, but even those didn’t have a problem with prayer leadership (a delegated task), or with speaking to mixed groups. Those would be minority positions (and certainly reactionary rather than conservative).

That sounds terrible. A school bus driver !
What is the world coming to when the lower classes see fit to ape their betters ?