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For week ended October 24, 1999 Posted 31 Oct 1999

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Legislators support pre-game prayer

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Legislators support pre-game prayer
Seattle WA Post-Intelligencer 22Oct99 D6
Legislators support pre-game prayer

"This ban sets a dangerous precedent. It is wrong for our courts to dictate when and where we can pray," said Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas. "If we can start each day in Congress with a prayer, why can't the students in our schools do the same before their football games."

Thirteen House members from Texas have co-sponsored a measure including Democrats such as Sandlin and Ralph Hall, along with Republicans Ron Paul and Lamar Smith. The prayer-at-football-game controversy started in Texas in 1995 with a lawsuit against a school district located about 20 miles north of Galveston in Santa Fe, Texas. The case was filed by a Catholic family and a Mormon family, both of whom were concerned with overt preaching and harassment of their children in the school.

The U.S. district judge in Galveston ruled that only "nonsectarian" and "non-proselytizing" prayers could be said at graduation activities and football games. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling on graduation prayers but banned prayers from football games, claiming that they were not a solemn occasion.

"If it is constitutional at a graduation...than it is absolutely constitutional at a football game," Sandlin said. The distinction is "strained at best," he added.

Resolutions have been passed in many rural districts across Texas against the ban. Attorney generals from nine states have written the Supreme Court in support of prayer at football games. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and Governor George W. Bush recently issued a joint friend-of-the-court brief strongly supporting the practice of prayer.

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