Prayer at Board Meetings: Another Opportunity for the 5th Circuit

The 5th Circuit has not given us a definitive ruling on the issue of prayer at school board meetings. However, they now have the opportunity to do so. The issue arose in Birdville ISD where the American Humanist Association challenged the practice. The federal district court ruled in favor of the school district and the case is now on appeal to the 5th Circuit.

The district court judge observed that the “determinative issue” was whether school board meetings were more akin to legislative sessions, or to high school graduations. In support of that line of thinking, the court noted earlier Supreme Court decisions that have held that prayer at the start of a legislative session is constitutional, whereas prayer at a graduation ceremony is generally not. In the Birdville case the court said:

The court is persuaded, as in Tangipahoa, [an earlier district court decision from Louisiana] that a school board is more like a legislature than a school classroom or event. Thus, the mere fact that school board meetings may open with a prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause. However, use of such prayers to exploit or proselytize Christianity is improper.

Stay tuned for this one. The decision of the 5th Circuit will give us a binding legal precedent concerning this very common practice.

The case is American Humanist Association v. Birdville ISD, decided by Judge John McBryde of the Northern District of Texas on August 1, 2016.


File this one under: RELIGION

Tomorrow is Toolbox Tuesday! Stay Tuned!!