The Supreme Court turns down the Lubbock case.

It had all the elements of a major test of freedom of religion, say the Christian Legal Society (CLS) lawyers who invested fatiguing hours to get their argument ready for the U.S. Supreme Court. The court thought otherwise and, without a comment, decided not to hear Lubbock Independent School District v. Lubbock Civil Liberties Union.

The issue was whether high school students could organize a Bible discussion group in the same way they might form a chess club or debating team. Public school officials in Lubbock, Texas, had said they certainly could, as long as the meetings were voluntary. Nobody’s particular set of beliefs was at stake. The issue was seen as freedom of speech, not religion. The ACLU challenged this as unconstitutional, and was upheld in the Fifth Circuit Federal Court. Similar free speech rights were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year for college age students in Widmar v. Vincent, but that decision has not been interpreted to apply to younger students.

Controversy about prayer in schools has been marked by continual misunderstandings of the Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 decisions on the issue. Some have alleged that the Court removed God from the classroom, exaggerating the Court’s intent by trying to snuff out all religious expression in schools.

CLS Washington office director Samuel E. Ericsson disputes those who say the Court banished prayer from schoolrooms. What the Court said, Ericsson explains, is that “the state had no business writing official prayers. Second, public school teachers should not be placed in the role of a priest or minister in the classroom.” But the Court did not prohibit student-initiated voluntary groups from organizing prayer ...

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