Skip to main content

Public schools may not allow prayers before football games

publicschools.jpegEight years ago on June 19th, the US Supreme Court announced a landmark decision on one of the most controversial topics in American jurisprudence: school prayer. In Santa Fe v. Doe, the Court ruled that public schools cannot permit student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games without violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court concluded that the football game prayers were public speech authorized by a government policy and taking place on government property at government-sponsored school-related events, and that the District’s policy involved both perceived and actual government endorsement of the delivery of prayer at important school events. Such speech is not properly characterized as “private,” wrote Justice Stevens for the majority. In dissent, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, noted the “disturbing” tone of the Court’s opinion that “bristle[d] with hostility to all things religious in public life.”