Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS-initiated Prayer Case To Be Heard This Week Before U.S. Supreme Court
Washington Post pgA02 27Mar00 N1
By Joan Biskupic: Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments
this week on the constitutionality of voluntary student-led prayers
at school football games, in a case initiated by a Mormon family
fighting discrimination in the evangelical-dominated school system of
Santa Fe, Texas. The case will allow the justices to re-examine the
emotion-laden subject of prayer at school that it last visited in
Many interested parties have entered the dispute, filing
friend-of-the-court briefs to argue for or against public prayers at
football games. They include presidential-hopeful George W. Bush, who
supported a brief by Texas officials, supported by seven other
states, that argues for allowing the prayers.
The case also represents the first test of a new argument being used
by religious conservatives. The argument claims that banning
invocations at football games unconstitutionally discriminates
against religious speech.
Students in the Santa Fe Independent School District have also
expressed their views of the lawsuit. Marian Ward, a 17-year-old
senior and daughter of a preacher, prayed at one of the football
games this past season, after a federal judge allowed the prayers.
"Be with the fans, that they will exemplify good behavior, as well,
Lord. . . . Bless this evening," she said in her prayer. Much of the
community is clearly behind her, as is the state as a whole. In the
recent Texas Republican primary, 94 percent of voters approved a
nonbinding resolution supporting the prayers.
"I go to school to learn. I don't go there to express my religious
views," said her former classmate, Catholic student Amanda Bruce. She
says Ward's speech was an affront to "every other faith that does not
pray to Jesus or God." She says that other students and parents in
the community have given in to peer pressure on the issue, ''They're
scared they'll be shunned by the community or be labeled an atheist
or devil worshipper like I was,'
Opponents of the prayers worry that the will of the majority will
impose religious views on the minority in a community. "In
communities sensitive to religious minorities, government involvement
in religious activity leads inevitably to watered-down 'nonsectarian'
prayer, satisfying to few who take their religious commitments
seriously," wrote former U.S. solicitor general Walter Dellinger. "In
other communities, official sectarian prayers track outright the
beliefs of the dominant sect, excluding local religious minorities
and making them outsiders in their own schools and towns."
After this week's hearings, the court could rule any time before late June.
Supreme Court tackles major school prayer case out of Texas
Boston Globe (AP) 27Mar00 N1
By Chris Fletcher: Associated Press