Establishment Clause Violation
The other day I went to the high school graduation for my girlfriend’s kid brother, who went to Fruitport High School in Fruitport, Michigan (near to Muskegon). For the most part it was a normal affair, as one might expect from any graduation ceremony. Then, of course, it happened. Fruitport is a public school, not a private one, so it caught me off guard a bit…but there it was. A student led call to prayer. My first thought was that they were trying to use a student to circumvent the Establishment Clause (that part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that forbids the government from respecting an establishment of religion), because a student is not an employee of the school. However, it was a school function with a captive audience, and the student was speaking on the behalf of the administration. I kept my hat on, thank you very much, despite the call to take it off.
This blatant violation of the Constitution made me rather mad. I know West Michigan is overrun with deference to Christianity, but I still expect people to follow the rule of law on such matters. So, I shot off an e-mail to a lawyer acquaintance of mine, Amanda, (whom I recently met, and is involved in the Michigan Center for Free Inquiry), and while she said my take on the situation (from a legal point of view) was spot on, such things not only continue to be a problem here, there is also a relevant case going on in Texas right now.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned the lower court’s decision which would have banned a student led call to prayer. The Appellate Court felt that prohibiting the student from leading the prayer would have been violating the students rights, and that it was not sufficiently proven that the student was acting on behalf of the school.Appellate Court Decision As Amanda put it in her e-mail, “[t]hey do this kind of thing because they can't imagine that anyone would ever oppose it, and they can't understand why anyone ever would.” Hopefully, if and when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case (a big “if”, considering some of the Justices currently sitting on the bench), this will be over turned again in favor of the plaintiff (especially as it ignores precedent, by the U.S. Supreme Court itself that banned student led prayer at a high school football game). U.S. Supreme Court Decision