Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe
In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that student-led, student-initiated invocations prior to public school football games violated the First Amendment. A Texas school district had a policy that provided for two student elections, the first to determine whether invocations should be given before football games, and the second to determine which student should give them. The Court determined that the student-led prayer was not private speech, but was public prayer explicitly encouraged by the school policy and carried out on school property at school-sponsored events; thus it constituted state-sponsored religious activity. The Court cited Lee v. Weisman, in which the Court declared invocations at public school graduations to be unconstitutional, and found that the school-sponsored invocation constituted government coercion to participate in religious activity in violation of the Establishment Clause; in addition to the immense social pressure and genuine desire felt by many students to attend high school football games, some students—such as cheerleaders, members of the band, and members of the football team—were required to attend the games. The Court concluded that the Constitution prevents schools from forcing students to choose between attending school-sponsored events and avoiding personally offensive religious rituals.
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