Texas School-Prayer Practice Rejected By Federal Court

March 24, 1982 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the practice of allowing students in Lubbock, Tex., to pray at school before or after their classes violates the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion.

The court rejected the school district’s argument that the prayer meetings were an extension of the voluntary, “open forum” prayer meetings upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last December in a higher-education case, Widmar v. Vincent.

The school district also maintained that banning the meetings would violate the students’ rights of free speech and free expression.

In the Widmar case, which involved the University of Missouri and a campus prayer group, the Supreme Court said that if a college or university allows some student organizations to meet in campus facilities, the policy must be applied to all student groups.

‘Young Adults’

A footnote to the decision noted that “unversity students are, of course, young adults,” a statement that led some lawyers to suggest that the same policy might not be applicable to high-school students.

A week after the Widmar ruling, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal by a group of high-school students at Guilderland High School in New York who had been denied the right to hold prayer meetings. The decision was made without comment.

The Court’s decision not to hear the case upheld an appeals court ruling that allowing such meetings would violate the Constitution’s prohibition against state establishment of religion.

At the time of the Guilderland decision, a lawyer for the Christian Legal Society in Oak Park, Ill., said the Lubbock case, called Lubbock Civil Liberties Union v. Lubbock Independent School District, was significantly different from Guilderland.

In the Guilderland case, the students sued to force the school board to allow the meetings; in Lubbock, the local civil-liberties group sued the school board because it allowed students to use the facilities for prayer meetings.

“The substance of the decision not to hear Guilderland,” he said, ''is that high-school students cannot require the school board to let them meet for prayer groups. That doesn’t say what happens if the school board decides to let them meet.”

D. Thomas Johnson, attorney for the Lubbock school district, said the district “probably will” try to take the case to the Supreme Court.--A.H.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week