In a decision that could have far-reaching implications regarding public school prayer, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a former high school football coach was within his constitutional rights to hold prayers on the field after a game.

AJC Chief Legal Officer Marc Stern, a leading expert on this issue, co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the suburban Seattle school district that had dismissed the coach. Stern had this statement following the high court’s ruling:

“The decision strikes a serious blow against the Constitution’s Establishment Clause as has been interpreted since World War II. Worse, the decision subordinates conscience protecting aspects of separation of church and state to individual religious expression.

The Court’s opinion effectively invites indirect but no less real coercion of students who are attuned to hints from school officials who grade and evaluate them. The Court’s see-no-evil approach to the coach’s prayer will encourage those who seek to proselytize within the public schools to do so with the Court’s blessing. That is no advance for religious liberty.”

This is the third decision in a week that confines the Constitution to an 18th-century America. The Constitution should not change with every new trend, but neither can it sensibly be read without regard to massive change in American life.”


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