The U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which allows a high school football coach to pray on the field, is expected to resume a heated and tense debate among public school grounds, California education and legal professionals, parents, educators and others. Said Monday.
Conservatives and some Christian leaders praised the court’s action, saying it was a fair place for the personal religious expression, religious and speech rights of the coach and his voluntary followers. But allowing civil libertarians and many academics to lead a coach or any other school official to prayer is tantamount to establishing a religion that the Constitution forbids.
“The court has opened the door to prayer in schools like never before in the last 60 years,” said Erwin Semerinsky, a constitutional legal expert and dean of the law school at UC Berkeley. “There will be more cases. And it is not clear where the court will draw the line.
The High Court’s 60-year decision to ban official prayer in New York schools has drawn a bright line for school officials: practices and policies on campus must strictly have secular motives. John Rogers, UCLA’s professor of education and an expert on training school administrators, said Monday’s verdict had blurred that line and called for more challenges for those who want more space for religious expression in schools.
“One of the consequences of this decision is that it is going to open up more conflict in schools,” Rogers said. “This is probably going to create more challenges for principals and other district leaders because new efforts are being made to bring religion to the place of public schools. In some school settings, religious minorities or people who are not affiliated with any religion are going to feel some sense of compulsion or some sense of peace or alienation.
The case of Joe Kennedy, who was an assistant coach at Bremerton High School in Washington state, came to a head Monday. Kennedy began kneeling himself in a 50-yard line to pray, although the sessions soon became highly publicized and drew crowds of players and spectators to the stadium.
When prayers became a public event, school officials warned the coach that it could be seen as violating a constitutional ban on “establishing religion.” Kennedy was suspended for refusing to follow the district’s guidelines. He was not hired the following year.
The lower courts ruled against Kennedy, but the conservative majority of the Supreme Court found that the coach’s prayers were protected under the other two rules of the 1st Amendment – the “free exercise” of the free speech rule and the religious rule.
“The Constitution and the best of our traditions advocate mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and oppression, but are equivalent to religious and secular views,” said Judge Neil M. Korsch wrote for a 6-3 majority.
The court action Monday sparked heated debate on a Facebook group for parents who support teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and who are generally affiliated with their union.
One parent encouraged Kennedy to defend his freedom of speech and religious freedom, saying the coach did not force others to attend prayer sessions. But many parents objected, saying soldiers and students would be ridiculed or excluded if they were a minority who did not join in prayer.
Other parents wondered how much the High Court would have accepted the arguments of independence if the coach in question had been a Muslim and had placed a prayer rug in the middle and worshiped Allah.
“I don’t know if this is the Supreme Court I will make a decision so far If it’s a religion other than Christianity, ”said Tracy Abbott Cook, one of the parents on the panel. “Why should this coach bring religion to the public at this time? People may want to retire from religion and politics when they go to a sporting event… Why should it be suppressed?”
Los Angeles Schools Sub. According to Alberto M. Carvalho, the district’s policy has already made it clear that employees are allowed to pray at their own time and place. The district bans prayers that force students to join, Carvalho said.
“To the extent that you engage in prayer outside of truth [school] The event – and you do not force anyone to come with you in prayer – is within the protection of freedom of speech and you will not miss it when you enter a public school. he said. “Beyond that, it will not be allowed.”
But even in the country’s second-largest school district, it is clear that those guidelines are not being followed uniformly.
The football coaches at the three high school LA Unified Schools said they were aware of the rules that separate religion and school activities, although players would sometimes offer informal prayers, sometimes in small groups.
Dorsey Hai’s football coach Staffone Johnson said he would continue to offer prayers before and after the games. “I pray for their comfort, … without injury, I pray for other teams so they can travel safely,” Johnson said, giving comfort to the players.
He mentions “God” in his prayers, but said it was a universal word and that Muslim soldiers and practitioners “participated in their own way.”
Carvalho said he wanted to know the details of the Dorsey high prayer sessions, but said they were “not in conflict” with the district’s policy.
Orange District Education Trustee Ken Williams praised the court’s ruling, saying religious celebrations and expressions of faith are central to American identity.
Williams, a Christian, said: “I fully understand that you cannot force someone to pray or believe the same things I do. “I think it’s very American, but I think religion is important. This nation was founded by people of religious faith.
In the Clovis Unified School District of Central Valley, board member Steven Folk said he supports a change in policy that allows teachers and coaches to offer prayers at athletic events. Previously only students in the district were allowed to hold prayers.
The district has opened school board meetings with prayer for years after a federal appeals court ruled in 2018 against the practice in a case involving a school board in the Sino Valley.
“I hope people are not intimidated by prayer. They should not be,” said Folk, who is also a Mormon.
But when led by lawyers, coaches and other authorities who argued against organized prayer on the school grounds, the practice was said to be coercive and forbidden. Washington’s ACLU noted that one of Kennedy’s players prayed against his own beliefs and would lose playing time if he refused.
“This decision divides the church and the state – the fundamental principle of our democracy – and harms our young people,” said Darin Darling, a senior ACLU lawyer in Washington.
“Some parties see our public schools as theaters for conflict, a political game,” said Rogers of UCLA. “I think it’s detrimental to public schools. We need some common purpose to advance our shared interest in developing the skills of young people in serving the wider community.”
Monday’s decision did not overturn earlier court rulings that barred the direct intrusion of religion into the curriculum and school day.
In 1962, the High Court ruled that Engel vs. The New York Regents Board in Whittle ruled that prayer could not be imposed on students. Although they argued that a one-sentence prayer of New York academics was secular, the court rejected their proposal.
Justice Hugo Black found that only the introduction to prayer (“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on you and ask for your blessings on us, on our parents, on our teachers, and on our country. Amen”) was by its very nature. , Although participation in prayer is not explicitly compelling, it is sufficient to establish religion illegally.
In subsequent decades, the Supreme Court rejected Alabama legislation that allowed one minute of prayer or meditation on school days and prohibited prayers led by religious leaders at school graduation ceremonies. In 2000, the court also rejected the policy of the Texas School Board, which allowed students to decide by majority vote whether they wanted a student-led “call” at football games, graduations and other school meetings.
Judge John Paul Stevens stopped the school prayer program in comments 6-3: Only Stephen Fryer, the only judge left in court, agreed with that view. He is set to retire this summer.