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For week ended April 02, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Mar00

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 1992.

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.

See also:

Supreme Court tackles major school prayer case out of Texas
Boston Globe (AP) 27Mar00 N1
By Chris Fletcher: Associated Press


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