A school board’s policy of having members lead prayers before public meetings is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The 8,400-student Indian River school district in Delaware formalized its board-meeting prayer policy in 2004, calling for members to rotate in leading a sectarian or nonsectarian prayer or a moment of silence to “solemnify” meetings.
In its Aug. 5 decision, a three-judge appellate panel in Philadelphia said the key question in the case was whether the board’s meetings and prayers were closer to legislative prayer, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, or to school events.
The court found the board meetings closer to school events, in which school-sponsored prayers have been held to have a coercive effect on students.
A version of this article appeared in the August 24, 2011 edition of Education Week as School Board Meeting Prayer Ruled Unconstitutional