Presentation on theme: "Michael Morris School Law. Background Opening Exercise By the end of this presentation, we need to decide if what I just did is problematic were I."— Presentation transcript:
Michael Morris School Law
Background Opening Exercise By the end of this presentation, we need to decide if what I just did is problematic were I a Senior at TD Public High School rather than Villanova.
The issue at hand… The 1 st Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Is it possible to both not establish religion, while also not prohibiting its free exercise in school? ○ The courts have tired to answer this question.
Case Review - Engle vs. Vitale (1962) NY State Board of Regents approves: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” New Hyde Park School District: tells Principal the prayer should be: “said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of the school day.” 10 New Hyde Park Parent Sue State Court – OK so long as students are given the right to opt out. US Supreme Court – Prayer Violates the Establishment Clause ○ State officials may not compose a school prayer, nor encourage its recitation in school.
Case Review – Lemon vs. Kurtzman (1971) PA case regarding public compensation to private schools. Court establishes “Lemon Test”: The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose; The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
Case Review – Lee vs. Weisman (1992) Lee, principal at a RI middle school invites a Rabbi to deliver a prayer at Graduation. Weisman family objects, sues for an injunction Decision: RI District Court Sides with Lee – Weisman’s attend ceremony which includes Rabbi’s prayer 1 st Circuit Court of Appeals - Sides with Weisman’s School District Appeals to US Supreme Court: ○ Court finds for Weisman’s ○ Endorsing a benediction is establishment ○ Kennedy’s “Coercion Test” Option of non-attendance is not valid.
Case Review - Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (2000) Students Elect a Student Chaplin to Pray School Changes Policy After Initial Challenge Students Vote to Pray & Elect A Chaplin District Court Upholds so long as the prayer is nonsectarian and non-proselytizing ○ BOTH Sides Appeal to 5 th Circuit Appeals Court Finds ‘nonsectarian and non-proselytizing’ is necessary language, but that such prayers are not appropriate at football games. US Supreme Court finds 6-3 Unconstitutional ○ "Regardless of the listener's support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school's seal of approval."
So Far… State cannot write a prayer or force students to recite one. (Engle) Lemon Test Schools cannot have clergy offer prayers at graduation (Lee) Schools cannot appoint or support students offering official prayers. (Santa Fe)
But wait… What about Tinker: students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,“ Doesn’t this apply to Prayer too? ○ The answer is yes! Which is why I can (probably) pray at the beginning of my presentation. ○ The court writes in Santa Fe, “nothing in the Constitution... prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day,“ ○ Students may engage freely in prayer in the same way they would engage in any other speech at school.
Prayer or Fair? During a graduation speech a student thanks God for helping him to succeed. Depends
Prayer or Fair? An HS English Teacher assigns selected reading from the bible for students to study. Fair. (Abington vs. Schempp 1963, allows objective use of the bible for secular historical or literary purposes.)
Prayer or Fair? A teacher asks students to write a poem for homework and one student writes a prayer… The teacher does not allow the student to read the prayer out loud, when others read their poems. ○ Anti-Prayer The teacher asks the student to re-do the assignment with a more appropriate subject matter ○ Anti-Prayer The teacher posts the students poems around the room, including the prayer. ○ Think about the prayer banner… ○ Fair
Prayer or Fair? Students want to organize a “meet me at the pole” event, a public prayer event, before school at the schools flag pole. ○ Fair. A few teachers would like to attend… ○ Depends