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"Welcome to the game," said high school student Marian Ward over the loudspeaker before a Friday night football game last September in Santa Fe, a suburb of Galveston, Texas.The daughter of a Baptist pastor then offered this prayer:

Lord, thank you for this evening. Thank you for all the prayers that were lifted up this week for me. I pray that you watch over each and every person here tonight, especially those involved in the game, that they will demonstrate good sportsmanship, Lord, and that we'll have safety. Just be with the fans, that they will exemplify good behavior as well, Lord. And just be with each and every one of us as we go home to our respective places tonight. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

UNHOLY END RUN

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, in Doe v. Santa Fe later this year, whether that brief prayer violates the constitutional ban on the establishment of religion. An appeal has landed in the high court's lap because of an ill-reasoned ruling of the Federal Appeals Court, Fifth Circuit, banning pregame prayer. Judge E. Grady Jolly, in his lone dissent, said the ruling "achieves the jurisprudentially rare result of offending not only one, but three provisions within the First Amendment." Indeed, that opinion was an unholy end run around the rights to free speech and unfettered religious expression, and the ban on established religion.In the Santa Fe Independent School District, administrators designated a specific time slot for one student to speak publicly before weekly football games. Each spring, the student body selected the student by secret ballot. The individual student had free rein to speak briefly on the school's public-address system.In its majority opinion, the federal appeals court objected ...

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May 22, 2000

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