Federal appeals court affirms graduation prayer decision

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) -- A federal appeals court has again ruled that public school students in a Florida county may choose a class member to give a prayer or personal message at high school graduations.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled last year that the school's policy -- which gives Duval County school officials no control over who is chosen to speak or what the speaker says -- does not violate the U.S. Supreme Court's ban on authorized graduation prayers.

Several Jacksonville students and parents had sued, contending the policy was an unconstitutional establishment of religion by government.

The Supreme Court last year barred student-led prayers at public high school football games in Santa Fe, Texas, and directed the 11th Circuit court to restudy the Florida case.

The new 11th Circuit ruling says the two cases were ''fundamentally different.''

Outlawing the Florida policy, the court said, would effectively ban religious speech, no matter ''how divorced the message may be from any state review, let alone censorship.''

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