A disconcerting story has recently emerged out of Texas, where a public high school instituted a prayer room for their Muslim pupils, giving them special treatment while excluding all other faiths. Meanwhile, Christians were recently forbidden from praying at school. Now, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has followed up with a unanimous decision regarding public prayer.
In a 3-0 decision, the federal appeals court ruled that a Texas school board is not in violation of the U.S. Constitution by opening its meetings with student-led prayer. Though we can consider this a victory for Christianity, it is upsetting that an issue was made of it in the first place since there was a time when no American would have challenged the rights of Christians to pray in public. What’s worse, at the same time attempts are being made to forbid Christians from prayer, Muslims are being given special accommodations within schools for that very purpose.
The American Humanist Association brought the issue of prayer to the court, stating that the Birdville Independent School District had violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of a government establishment of religion by praying before their meetings. However, Circuit Judge Jerry Smith vehemently disagreed.
Writing for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Jerry Smith said the matter involved legislative prayer, because a school board was “more like a legislature” than a classroom.
He also said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision letting the town of Greece in upstate New York start board meetings with prayer supported the Birdville school board’s practice.
“Most attendees at school-board meetings, including Smith, are mature adults,” and even board members’ “polite” requests that the audience stand during invocations “do not coerce prayer,” Smith wrote.
The judge added that while two other federal appeals courts reached the opposite conclusion in similar cases, their decisions predated the Greece case and students, unlike in Birdville, had formal roles in board proceedings. [Source: Reuters]
“The decision is reassuring because these trustees are elected and serve without compensation, and the possibility that they might be personally liable for damages would be somewhat daunting,” D. Craig Wood, a lawyer for the defendants, said in an interview.
One is led to wonder whether this case would have been brought before the court had it involved Muslims praying to Allah instead of Christians praying to Jesus, even though the latter is the faith which our great nation was founded upon. Would the American Humanist Association have been offended in that case? My guess is no. In that case, they likely would have rejoiced, spewing lines about “diversity” and “tolerance.” The double-standard is glaringly obvious and deeply concerning.