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For week ended September 12, 1999 Posted 19 Sep 1999

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In Texas, schools hold out faith for pregame prayer

Summarized by Kent Larsen

In Texas, schools hold out faith for pregame prayer
Chicago Tribune 6Sep99 L1
By Dahleen Glanton: Tribune Staff Writer

SANTA FE, TEXAS -- With the start of the High School football season in Texas, students and High School officials felt pressure because of a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that prohibited prayers at High School sporting events. Traditionally, pre-game prayers are said over the stadium public-address system. Because of the tradition, Texas Governor George W. Bush is supporting an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue originally came to a head because a Mormon and a Catholic family contended that the school district violated their 1st Amendment rights by allowing teacher-sponsored religious clubs during school hours, and allowing prayers at athletic events.

The families say that the district allowed a "pervasive religious atmosphere" to develop in the school. Students were told to bow their heads and pray before lunch and religious materials were handed out in the classroom. Invitations to bible classes and camps were made in the school and a Mormon girl was told by a teacher that Mormonism was a cult and she was going to hell.

And some observers claim that the school district has still not fixed the problem. "A number of school board members were a very strong and vocal religious right, and they took a position in concert with some local churches that they were going to infuse religion into the school," said attorney Anthony Griffin, who represented the two families. "And it's still going on. It's a policy that comes from higher up."

The prayer issue was resolved temporarily on Friday when a judge issued a temporary restraining order, keeping the school district from punishing or taking action against any student giving a prayer before athletic events, allowing the district to continue its traditional practices.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information