Santa fe independent school district V. Doe argued: March 29, 2000 – Decided June 19, 2000 By Neil Fastres


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SANTA FE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT V. DOE Argued: March 29, 2000 – Decided June 19, 2000

  • By

  • Neil Fastres


Background:

  • A student elected as Santa Fe High School's student council chaplain delivered a prayer over the public address system before each home varsity football game.

  • Respondents, Mormon and Catholic students and their mothers, filed a suit challenging this practice and others under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.



  • Petitioner school district adopted a policy, which authorizes two student elections, the first to determine whether “invocations” should be delivered at games, and the second to select the spokesperson to deliver them.

  • the District Court entered an order modifying the policy to permit only nonsectarian prayer.

  • The District said that it was not a violation of the First Amendment because the policy’s messages are private student speech, not public speech.



CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES:

  • Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe dealt with the FIRST AMENDMENT: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, and Assembly (1971)

  •  The First Amendment protects the civil liberties of individuals in the United States.

  • The Constitution guarantees that government may not force anybody to support or participate in religion or its activities.

  • Question: Does the Santa Fe Independent School District's policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?



COURT RULING:

  • The case was decided 6 to 3. Justice John Paul Stevens delivered the majority opinion of the Court:

  •  The Court held that the District's policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violates the Establishment Clause. 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. Such speech is not properly characterized as "private," wrote Justice Stevens for the majority.



OPINIONS:

  • DISSENTING OPINIONS: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, agreed with the District’s opinion, which was that it was not a violation of the First Amendment because it was considered as a private speech.

  • CONCURRING OPINIONS: Justice John Paul Stevens, followed by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer thought that this kind of speech was public and could be an offense for some people.



RAMIFICATIONS:

  • It violated the First Amendment that talks about the freedom of Religion.

  • What it did for the U.S. is that now people will pay more attention of what they are going to say when they are in public areas, such as a football stadium for example. Maybe, it helped some to realize that what they think and believe is not especially what everybody else believes in.



CASES RELATED TO IT:

  • Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577. There, in concluding that a prayer delivered by a rabbi at a graduation ceremony violated the Establishment Clause, the Court held that, at a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its execices, or otherwise act in a way that establishes a state religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.

  • Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, 270, the school-sponsored newspaper of Hazelwood East High School, was written and edited by students. The school principal, Reynolds found two of the articles in the issue to be inappropriate, and ordered that the pages on which the articles appeared be withheld from publication. Did the principal's deletion of the articles violate the students' rights under the First Amendment? The Court held that the First Amendment did not require schools to affirmatively promote particular types of student speech. The Court held that schools must be able to set high standards for student speech disseminated under their auspices, and that schools retained the right to refuse to sponsor speech that was "inconsistent with 'the shared values of a civilized social order.



PERSONAL OPINION:

  • I agree with the Court’s decision because I think that to recite prayer in a public area is a violation to the First Amendment. I think that everybody has the right to have his own believes and nobody should force one to practice other religions than his own.




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