For years, East Brunswick High School football coach Marcus Borden led his team in prayers before games. After school district officials instructed him to stop doing so, he filed a lawsuit against the school district in federal court in New Jersey. He stopped leading the prayers, but he instructed the team captains to set up a voting system for the team prayer and joined in the players’ prayers.
In July 2006, the trial court ruled that the school district had violated Borden’s First Amendment rights by ordering him to refrain from participating in team prayers. The school district appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and asked us to present the appeal on its behalf. Then-Assistant Legal Director Richard B. Katskee argued the case in October 2007.
In April 2008, the Third Circuit issued its opinion, which unanimously reversed the trial court and ruled for the school district. The appeals court not only rejected Borden’s arguments that he had a First Amendment right to lead or join his students in prayer, but also concluded that his conduct violated the Establishment Clause.
Borden then sought review from the U.S. Supreme Court. We opposed that request. The Supreme Court denied Borden’s petition in March 2009, thus preserving our victory on the school district’s behalf.