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Supreme Court Says Students Can't Lead Prayer Before Football GamesAired June 19, 2000 - 10:25 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The Supreme Court has issued a decision.
Let's go to Charles Bierbauer to talk about the one of major impact, that dealing with school prayer.
Charles, what do we know?
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that the Supreme Court has ruled that a school district in Texas, and therefore, other school districts as well, cannot seek to create a situation where students are engaging in school prayer at school events. This dealt with the football games in Texas.
And here is a little bit of the way in which the school district presented its case.
BIERBAUER (voice-over): In a stadium in Santa Fa, Texas, before a high school football game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear heavenly, father, I pray your presence in the stadium tonight...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any reasonable observer would see this as an endorsement of prayer when it is given from the government- controlled mic as a part of the program, and that is coercive of students who are simply coming for a public school football game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christians are part of the public.
BIERBAUER: Last season's prayer policy spurred as much action outside the stadium as in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are standing fro freedom from religion.
BIERBAUER: Two families: one Mormon, one Catholic, who filed suit, have not been publicly identified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The very fact that the people who have complained have had to remain anonymous is one indicator that their community has been quite hostile to them. BIERBAUER: The school district contends it is simply giving students to choose their own pre-game speakers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It allowed for speech that was a message, secular message, or an invocation. So it is neutral on its face. It says: Say whatever you want to say.
BIERBAUER: Well, the Supreme Court said that is not the case, and indeed found that what the school board was arguing was private speech, the justices said was public speech, a result of government policy at a government event on government property.
Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the majority of the six justices, says this opens the ceremonies up to only one perspective that minority speech would not be given a chance and that the policy invites and encourages religious messages. And the court said, it could not do that.
In a related case, the court denied an appeal today on a case coming out of Louisiana, where the school board sought, in addition to teaching the evolutionary method of development, that it also would raise religious issues, and the same three dissenting justice, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas all said that this created a situation where a school district was barred from even suggesting that theories other than evolution could be considered.
So the court takes a very strong stand against bringing the religious aspects into schools -- Bill.
HEMMER: A lot to decipher here, Charles. We are expecting other decision thus far today, do we have any of the others in just yet?
BIERBAUER: Let me mention just one other, and that involves the state of Massachusetts, which sought, because of its concern over human rights conditions in Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now known, to create its own bars, its restrictions on trade with Burma. Well, the Supreme Court today ruled that that was unconstitutional, that the nature of dealing with trade and foreign policy belongs to the federal government, and not to the state government, and it shut down that particular Burma act that had been enacted up in Massachusetts, and in essence, says to everyone else across the country, to other states and municipalities, that the federal government is still primary when it comes to foreign policy -- Bill.
HEMMER: Relatively busy day there. From the Supreme Court, Charles Bierbauer. Thanks, Charles.
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