High Court To Decide School Prayer Case

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The US Supreme Court Monday agreed to decide whether public school districts can give students the right to participate in student-led group prayers at football games.

At issue are lower court decisions striking down a Galveston County, Texas, school board's policy as a violation of the Constitution's first amendment establishment clause. The school district is located in a Houston suburb.

Back in 1995, four students and their parents challenged a Galveston County school policy of allowing students to deliver any "message" or "invocation" over the public address system at home football games and to lead prayers at graduation ceremonies.

In 1993, the US Supreme Court refused to review a federal appeals court ruling in another Texas case that allowed student-led prayers at graduation ceremonies. The appeals court ruling covered only Louisiana and Mississippi and conflicted with another federal appeals court's decision barring student led graduation prayers in nine Western states.

Monday's Supreme Court order will limit the high court to review just the prayers at football games issue. A decision isn't expected until sometime in June.

The Galveston County school prayer case aroused the ire of some members of the House of Representatives.

Back in October, Congressman Henry Bonilla (R-TX) and Congressman Charles Stenholm (D-TX) introduced a "sense of the Congress" resolution expressing the belief that prayers and invocations at public school sporting events are constitutional. The House passed the resolution on November 2nd.

As to Monday's Supreme Court order, Bonilla told CNSNews.com, "Students, players and parents should have the right to ask God to protect the young men and women participating in a football game. It's ludicrous to say this violates the separation of church and state. No one is forcing anyone to pray."

Bonilla went on to say, "I hope that the Supreme Court will abide by the will of the people and protect their religious freedom by allowing them to pray at football games."

Stenholm was pleased at the high court's decision to review the case. "I am pleased that following a call by Congress and the public, the Supreme Court has decided to rule on this important issue. There have been contradictory lower court decisions on prayer at public school events creating confusion about what the law really is. A Supreme Court ruling in this matter will clarify the jumbled state of the law surrounding school prayer."

Stenholm went on to say, "I agree 100 percent that any prayer offered at a school function should be nonsectarian and non-proselytizing as the lower court suggested. At the same time, a recognition of God and our country's need for Divine guidance has been part of this nation's fabric from the very start. . . . It is in that spirit that I find prayer at football games to be traditional, positive and constitutional."