In Amicus Brief, ADL Argues Church-State Separation is Violated
When Schools Mandate Student Prayer at Football Games
Houston, Texas, February 2, 2000 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in
coalition with other groups, today announced the filing of an amicus brief in Doe
vs. Santa Fe, the controversial Texas football prayer case now before the
U.S. Supreme Court.
The brief argues the school district’s policy of permitting student
led-prayer at football games is unconstitutional. The Santa Fe, Texas,
Independent School District last year established the policy delegating to a
student the responsibility of delivering an invocation over the stadium’s
public address system prior to home football games.
"No one attending the football game would have any doubt that this
prayer, with its sectarian references, was being delivered at the school’s
behest and on its behalf," said Howard P. Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman.
"There is an appropriate time and place for expressions of faith. A
school-sponsored football game clearly isn’t one of them."
The amicus brief in Doe v. Santa Fe urges the Supreme Court to
reaffirm the important distinction between government-sponsored religious
activity and private religious activity. "This student speech," the
brief argues, "occurs as part of a school event over which school officials
maintain full control…". If students wish to attend their school’s
football games, they have no choice but to sit through the prayer even if they
find it offensive. This situation is clearly different from a forum where more
than one religious viewpoint is represented.
The brief notes that the school’s policy mandating the student invocation
was not enacted in a vacuum, but followed on the heels of previously
unsuccessful attempts specifically to require pre-game prayers. The district is
facilitating the prayer by providing a platform, a microphone and an audience.
"ADL is an organization rooted in the Jewish community whose fight to
maintain the wall separating government and religion is not intended to forbid
expression of religious faith," said Marvin D. Nathan, Chairman of ADL’s
Southwest Regional Board. "We believe that any lowering of the wall,
especially in public schools, creates an environment in this country where
religious minorities feel unwelcome."
Other organizations joining the coalition include the American Jewish
Committee, the American Jewish Congress, Americans United for the Separation of
Church and State, the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and People for the
American Way. The brief was submitted on behalf of the coalition by former U.S.
Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, and prepared with assistance from the
Washington, D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers.
Religion in the Public Schools:
Guidelines for a growing
and changing phenomenon
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.