Nov 15, 1999

The Supreme Court has decided to accept an appeal of a Texas case concerning prayer at public school football games, setting the stage for a major church-state showdown, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The justices announced today that they will hear Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, a case dealing with student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games. The dispute arose four years ago when two anonymous families filed suit against the district, claiming that prayers before the games and other school events violated the separation of church and state.

"Students should not be pressured to pray, whether it's at football games, in the classroom, or anywhere else," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "I hope the justices don't drop the ball by approving school-sanctioned religion."

In an opinion released on Feb. 26, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said public school students may not lead group prayers before football games. At the same time, the court said public school graduation ceremonies may include prayer to "solemnize" them.

"Unless the Supreme Court thinks football is a sacrament, it should find these school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional," Lynn said.