WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that a North Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led public prayers without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition against government-established religion.
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take a case challenging the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.
A three-judge panel of that court earlier this year said a lower court was correct to dismiss a lawsuit against the Birdville Independent School District over its practice of beginning meetings with a statement from a student that is usually a prayer.
The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association and Isaiah Smith, who is a graduate of Birdville High School. Smith’s lawsuit centered on what he considered to be religious discrimination. “They openly endorse Christianity over other religions and over non-religion,” he said.
Smith, who said he is not against prayer but he believes in separation of church and state, claims to have received hate mail and death threats in response to the suit.
Birdville ISD Superintendent Darrell G. Brown, Ph.D. isseed the following statement Monday afternoon:
In the face of litigation filed against the District and each of its trustees, Birdville Independent School District’s trustees believed it was important to fight to ensure the application of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in a way that was legal, equitable, and defensible. The speeches given by students at the Board meetings are their own – not something they are told to say. Occasionally, students will open the meeting with a prayer. We believe the students have the right to express themselves in this manner if they choose. District Judge John H. McBryde, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the District’s position on this issue. Birdville ISD has been vindicated by all levels of our judicial system.
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