Federal Appeals Court Rules that Texas School Board Does Not Violate Constitution by Beginning Meetings with Prayer

A federal appeals court ruled that a Texas school board does not violate the U.S. Constitution by beginning its meetings with student-led prayers.

In American Humanist Association et al v Birdville Independent School District et al, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-0 decision, ruled that the Birdville Independent School District’s practice of opening board meetings with prayers offered by students does not violate the Establishment Clause. Since 1997, the Birdville school board has allowed students, typically in elementary or middle school, to open board meetings with prayer, often referring to Jesus Christ and inviting audience members to pray. Board members often stand and bow their heads during the invocations. The lawsuit seeking to stop the prayers was brought by the American Humanist Association.

The appeals court also ruled that the school board members were protected by “qualified immunity” and dismissed the case against them. The Court of Appeals ruled that the school board was “more like a legislature” rather than a classroom and cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision, which allowed the Town of Greece in upstate New York to start board meetings with prayer.

“We commend the court’s decision that upheld the school board’s prayer practice and rejected the American Humanist Association’s attempt to eradicate prayer from the board meetings,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The Supreme Court has ruled that prayers at state and local legislative meetings are permissible. The prayer opening a school board meeting is also permissible, as the Court of Appeals ruled. This is a stinging rebuke to groups that want to cleanse America of prayer. America was founded upon prayer and prayer has been a common practice since the founding. A short prayer does not establish a religion,” said Staver.

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SOURCE: Liberty Counsel