Sep 15, 2011

A public school art teacher, who also doubled as a bus driver, challenged a host of religious activities in the De Valls Bluff School District, including the presentation of sectarian prayers at mandatory faculty meetings and in-service trainings, the placement by school employees of religious materials in his mailbox, and the display of a Bible and a framed scripture verse in the principal’s office and the wearing of religious clothing by teachers. The district court struck down the first two of these practices, but upheld the third as private expression. On appeal to the Eighth Circuit, we submitted an amicus brief in February 2004 arguing that prayers are impermissible at government-sponsored faculty meetings under any circumstances; and that the sectarian nature of the prayers and the mandatory nature of the meetings only worsens the constitutional violation. Oral argument was presented on May 10, 2004. On August 24, 2004, the Court held that prayers cannot be held at mandatory faculty meetings and in-service trainings; and that the principal’s display of the bible and a framed scripture verse in his office was private, personal speech and thus not subject to Establishment Clause prohibitions. The court subsequently denied a petition for rehearing and neither party opted to file a petition for certiorari.