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Supreme Court Disallows Student-Led Prayer Before Football Games; Massachusetts Cannot Boycott Myanmar on Its Own

Aired June 19, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: You may not know this, but a high school football game is a government event on government property. As such, it is not the appropriate place for student-led prayer, that's the majority ruling today from the U.S. Supreme Court on a high-profile case from Texas.

It is a decision with possible far-reaching implications and CNN's Charles Bierbauer joins us from the U.S. Supreme Court -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is far-reaching, Lou, it reaches back to the Constitution, on the First Amendment provision which is known as the Establishment Clause, saying that the government shall not establish any form of religion. And in ruling against the school district in Santa Fe, Texas, what the court said that is -- is that the notion of student-led prayer is a government policy on government property, at a government endorsed event; in this case, football games.

It's a ruling that at the -- or it's a proposal that initially had the backing of the Texas government and the Texas governor, but it is one that those groups who oppose this kind of behavior say is a major victory.

And one of those is Martin Cominsky of the Anti-Defamation League.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN COMINSKY, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: By using a microphone in a public stadium where a football team and band and students, who are required to be there, they are saying that you have to listen to only one prayer. And we firmly believe that everyone has the right to pray: and they can do so privately; they can do so in small groups before the football game; they can gather as they wish at their homes of worship; and in their own homes. But public prayer in a publicly financed stadium is not appropriate to everyone in the stadium.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: This was not a unanimous decision, in fact, three of the justices, led by the chief justice, William Rehnquist, dissented. The chief justice, in his dissent, said that the opinion of the court bristles with hostility towards religion in public life.

So a clear delineation between those who favor it and those who don't. But the majority was six to three against student-led prayer at high school football games -- Lou.

WATERS: Other important decisions today at the court? Fill us in, Charles.

BIERBAUER: Well, another important decision dealt with the approach by the state of Massachusetts to create a law which would have portrayed sanctions against the nation of Burma, now known as Myanmar, because of human rights violations there. But the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that that's foreign policy and it should be governed by Washington.

Let me touch on one other thing, though, related to the religion question, it's probably not the last we're going to hear about school prayer, because the justices themselves narrowly limited this question to the matter of the football games. There is another case coming forward, the justices will have to decide soon whether to hear it or not, and that involves a high school class valedictorian. So probably not the last of the singular issue of clearly defining where and -- where these prayers could not take place -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Charles Bierbauer, keeping watch at the U.S. Supreme Court today.

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