Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Jesus' Name Unconstitutional at School Board Meetings

Reversing a lower-court judgment, the United States 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Indian River [Delaware] School District’s policy allowing board members to open meetings with prayer unconstitutionally promoted Christianity over other religions and excessively entangled church and state.

UPDATE 1/17/12: Atheists win as Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal

UPDATE 8/31/11: Indian River School District Board of Education votes unanimously to file petition requesting U.S. Supreme Court hear case

-- From "Court: IR prayers violate Constitution" by Sean O'Sullivan, The News Journal 8/9/11

While U.S. District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. [previously] ruled the school board did not violate the law because it was more akin to an elected body than a school, the appeals court ruled the opposite was true and the prayers amounted to a state endorsement of one religion over others.

"In arriving at this outcome, we recognize, as the Supreme Court has, that 'religion has been closely identified with our history and government,' " wrote Circuit Court Judge Julio M. Fuentes in a 74-page opinion for the panel, which included Circuit Court Judge Jane Roth. "But we take to heart the observation ... that '(i)t is neither sacrilegious nor anti-religious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves.' "

IR Superintendent Susan Bunting said the district's next step will be to meet with the lawyer to discuss the details to decide what's next.

The ruling can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Prayers at School Board Meetings Struck Down" by Mark Walsh, Education Week 8/8/11

Prayers before school board meetings are commonplace in the United States, though certainly not everywhere.

The 3rd Circuit case involves the 8,400-student Indian River school district in Delaware, which has had prayers at its board meetings since its founding in 1969, court papers say. In 2004, the district formalized its board meeting prayer policy, which calls for board members to rotate in leading a prayer or moment of silence to "solemnify" formal meetings. The policy says prayers may be sectarian or non-sectarian, "in the name of a Supreme Being, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah," or any other entity.

Two families challenged the board prayers as a violation of the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion. A federal district court upheld the practice. But in its Aug. 5 decision in Doe v. Indian River School District, the 3rd Circuit court panel said the board's policy and practices cannot be squared with the establishment clause.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Court Rules Delaware School Board's Prayer Policy Unconstitutional" by Meagan Johnson, Christian Post Contributor 8/9/11

At each meeting, the Delaware school board would open with a prayer offered by one of the board members. The Court of Appeals had a concern about the prayers-- which were usually Christian in their orientation-- since students usually attended the meeting to receive awards or as part of their extra-curricular activities.

The panel stated that the meetings were comparable to graduation ceremonies. Although the meetings were not mandatory, the judges felt that the students were nevertheless coerced into participating in religious exercises. Therefore, the Court of Appeals decided that the primary effect of the school board’s prayer policy was to advance a specific religion and violated the U.S. Constitution.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Court strikes down school board's prayer policy" by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press 8/8/11

The school board argued the prayers are legal citing a 1983 Supreme Court ruling recognizing a long tradition of using prayer to “solemnize” public gatherings. . . .

The Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit, however, said the Delaware school board’s meetings were more like a graduation ceremony than a session of Congress. While not technically mandatory, the court said the school board encouraged student participation with practices like awards ceremonies, color guards from school JROTC groups and inclusion of student-government representatives.

The U.S. Supreme Court first ruled against prayer in public schools in 1962, followed a year later by a ruling that forbade daily Bible reading. Since the 1980s courts have judged Establishment Clause cases based on three criteria: whether a government’s practice has a “secular purpose,” its primary purpose is to advance religion or it creates excessive entanglement between government and religion.

Using that standard, the court said the Indian River prayer policy “rises above the level of interaction between church and state that the Establishment Clause permits.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read Jesus' Name Unconstitutional in Public, says Federal Court