Gov. Bush Wants Instant Replay on Student Prayer at Football Games

March 27, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU News Wire: 03-27-98 — Gov. Bush Wants Instant Replay on Student Prayer at Football Games

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AUSTIN, TX — Governor George W. Bush today asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling that student-led prayers before Texas public high school football games are unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported.

According to the news service, Bush and Republican Attorney General John Cornyn together filed the brief Friday, asking the court to revisit the case involving a Houston-area school district.

The school district’s policy had allowed graduating students to choose by secret ballot whether to have an invocation and benediction as part of their graduation ceremony, Cornyn said. A similar policy was used for football games.

In 1995, two unidentified Houston-area parents sued the school district, claiming that the football game prayers violated the separation of church and state.

In its recent ruling on the matter, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected official prayers or other “solemnizing ceremonies” before football games, although the court upheld a lower court’s ruling allowing limited prayer at graduation ceremonies.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Anthony Griffin said he wasn’t surprised that state officials are joining the legal battle over prayer.

“Maybe football is sacred in Texas,” Anthony Griffin told the AP. “It’s frightening to me that we now use religious stuff hypocritically and we ignore that this is a diverse society . . . we shouldn’t do that in our public schools.”

The ACLU has fought the school prayer battle on many fronts. Last April, the ACLU ran a national op-ed advertisement in The New York Times asking Americans to consider the fate of religious freedom if government is allowed to determine how students pray in school.

Acting on behalf of families who objected to government-imposed worship, the ACLU has also successfully challenged official classroom prayer practices in Mississippi, Alabama and several other states.

In 1998, the ACLU lobbied vigorously against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have for the first time allowed state-sponsored prayer in public schools as well as government funding — and thus oversight — of purely religious programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives resoundingly rejected the measure last June; however, the ACLU expects the issue to return in the 106th Congress.

Source: The Associated Press, March 27, 1999

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