Supreme Court Strikes Down Public Student-Led Prayer

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No student-led prayer at football games, says Supreme Court

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men," said Jesus at Matthew 6. "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." The Supreme Court yesterday also commanded those who pray to do so where no one can hear, but for very different reasons. According to Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 6-3 majority opinion, even when prayer is initiated and led by students, and even when attendance is voluntary, praying over the loudspeaker at a high-school football game "has the improper effect of coercing those present to participate in an act of religious worship." The pro-prayer argument that such student prayer is a form of free speech rang hollow in the court's ears: "Contrary to the district's repeated assertions that it has adopted a 'hands-off' approach to the pregame invocation, the realities of the situation plainly reveal that its policy involves both perceived and actual endorsement of religion." Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the dissenting opinion, which Justices Scalia and Thomas joined. Stevens's majority decision "bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life," Rehnquist wrote. "Neither the holding nor the tone of the opinion is faithful to the meaning of the Establishment Clause, when it is recalled that George Washington himself, at the request of the very Congress which passed the Bill of Rights, proclaimed a day of 'public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.'" The decision (available in HTML at Findlaw ...

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