Federal Court Outlaws School Board Prayers in Delaware District

By:  Dave Bohon
08/19/2011
       
Federal Court Outlaws School Board Prayers in Delaware District

A federal appeals court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a Delaware school district to include prayer as part of its regular school board meetings. Prayer has been a part of Indian River board meetings since the school district was founded in 1969, and in 2004 the district formalized a policy in which board members rotate in leading a prayer or moment of silence to “solemnify” the meetings. The policy stipulates that the prayers may be either sectarian or non-sectarian, and may be “in the name of a Supreme Being, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah” — or some other religious entity.

However, the district was dragged into court over the policy when two families complained that the prayers violated the First Amendment’s supposed separation of church and state. Associated Baptist Press (ABP) reported that the case “stemmed from a lawsuit originally filed in 2005 by a Jewish family claiming they were harassed after speaking out against religious practices including prayers at graduations and board meetings. They claimed their daughter’s graduation was ruined when she, the only Jewish person in her class, had to listen to a minister pray in Jesus’ name.”

A federal appeals court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a Delaware school district to include prayer as part of its regular school board meetings. Prayer has been a part of Indian River board meetings since the school district was founded in 1969, and in 2004 the district formalized a policy in which board members rotate in leading a prayer or moment of silence to “solemnify” the meetings. The policy stipulates that the prayers may be either sectarian or non-sectarian, and may be “in the name of a Supreme Being, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Allah” — or some other religious entity.

However, the district was dragged into court over the policy when two families complained that the prayers violated the First Amendment’s supposed separation of church and state. Associated Baptist Press (ABP) reported that the case “stemmed from a lawsuit originally filed in 2005 by a Jewish family claiming they were harassed after speaking out against religious practices including prayers at graduations and board meetings. They claimed their daughter’s graduation was ruined when she, the only Jewish person in her class, had to listen to a minister pray in Jesus’ name.”

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