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Prayer At Graduation Banned U.S. Supreme Court May Hear Appeal Of Idaho Case

Sat., May 20, 1995

When Samuel Harris goes through high school graduation at Grangeville June 2, there will be no prayer as part of the ceremony, a federal court says.

That also means school graduation prayers are barred at all Idaho high schools, the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday, at least until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves an Idaho lawsuit.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday issued an order lifting a stay against enforcement of its ruling last November against school prayers at graduation. The U.S. Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear the appeal.

The 9th Circuit panel said the Supreme Court may agree to hear the case, and could rule differently.

“But for right now, we have held that the proposed prayer at Harris’ graduation would violate his constitutional rights,” the federal judges said. “We cannot allow the school district to go ahead and do what we believe is unconstitutional, denying a successful litigant his appropriate relief, simply because the future of our holding is uncertain.”

Some school districts have attempted to get around the constitutional ban on introducing religion into the schools by having students initiate and regulate the prayers.

But on Nov. 18, the 9th Circuit ruled that inserting a student-initiated prayer into the Grangeville graduation ceremony violated the Constitution.

Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said the court only prohibits government-sponsored graduation prayer.

“Any child can still pray or say grace on an individual basis,” he said. “The court’s decision ensures that the religious liberty of all students - not simply the majority of students - is respected,” he said.

He said now that the stay of the ruling has been lifted, graduation prayers are not permitted in any Idaho public high schools.



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