WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Denver elementary school teacher who challenged orders that he remove

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Denver elementary school teacher who challenged orders that he remove two religious books from his classroom and not keep a Bible on his desk lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday. The justices, without comment, let stand rulings that the orders, from a school principal, were valid and did not amount to unlawful hostility toward Christianity. By a 5-4 vote last week, the court strengthened its 30-year ban on officially sponsored worship in public schools when it prohibited prayers at graduation ceremonies. In that case from Rhode Island, the justices rejected a Bush administration invitation to discard the way it has interpreted for two decades the Constitution's ban on "an establishment of religion." But last week's ruling did not close the door on the possibility that the court would consider doing just that in some case that did not involve prayer sessions in public schools. Kenneth Roberts was a fifth-grade teacher at the Berkeley Gardens Elementary School in Denver when in 1987 two parents complained to school principal Kathleen Madigan about two books -- "The Bible in Pictures" and "The Story of Jesus" -- included in Roberts' 240-book classroom library. Ms. Madigan ordered the books removed. She explained that "separation of church and state" made such action necessary. Ms. Madigan also noticed that Roberts kept a Bible on his desk, along with other books. She told him to keep it out of sight during classroom hours. On another occasion, Ms. Madigan told Roberts not to read silently from his Bible while his students read silently from books of their choice. When Roberts pressed for some written guidelines, Ms. Madigan reaffirmed her earlier instructions, stating, "The law is clear that religion may not be taught in school. To avoid the appearance of teaching religion, I have given you this directive." Roberts, who now teaches second grade in a different Denver school, never had read to his students from the Bible. His lawyers said he also never announced to his students that he was reading silently from the Bible. Roberts sued Ms. Madigan and the Adams County School District No. 50, seeking monetary damages and a declaration that they had acted unlawfully. Since 1971, the Supreme Court has used a three-part test for deciding whether the constitutionally required separation of church and state has been violated. A law or some action by a government agent, such as a school official, will be declared unconstitutional under the test if it does not have a secular purpose, advances or inhibits religion, or fosters excessive government entanglement with religion. Roberts' suit said the action taken by Ms. Madigan inhibited religion by disparaging Christianity. The suit said other books in his classroom, including one on Greek gods and one on American Indian religions, were not banned. The case is Roberts vs. Madigan, 90-1448. --- WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday let states declare Good Friday a holiday despite its religious significance to Christians. The court, without comment, rejected arguments that Hawaii violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state by making Good Friday a holiday and by giving public employees a paid day off. By a 5-4 vote last week, the court strengthened its 30-year ban on officially sponsored worship in public schools as it prohibited prayers at graduation ceremonies. In that case from Rhode Island, the justices rejected a Bush administration invitation to discard the way it has interpreted for two decades the Constitution's ban on "an establishment of religion." But last week's ruling did not close the door on the possibility that the court would consider doing just that in some case that did not involve prayer sessions in public schools. Monday the justices declined to use the Good Friday case to re-examine the high court's two-decade-old interpretation. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 2-1, last April that Hawaii did not endorse Christianity and had a secular purpose -- providing "an extra day of rest for a weary public labor force" -- when the state Legislature made Good Friday a holiday in 1941. The appeals court also noted that the Friday before Easter is an official holiday in 12 other states -- Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The holiday status of Good Friday in Hawaii was challenged by Honolulu residents who said their tax dollars were being used to support an official endorsement of religion. They said it costs more than $4.2 million a year in pay to state and local public employees who have the day off. Good Friday, marking the death of Jesus Christ, has a unique religious significance, the taxpayer lawsuit said. But the 9th Circuit court said adding Good Friday to the state's list of paid holidays does not promote religion. "It is of no constitutional moment that Hawaii selected a day of traditional Christian worship, rather than a neutral date, for its spring holiday once it identified the need," the appeals court said. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Dorothy Nelson said, "No other state holiday in the calendar bears anywhere near the religious implications of Good Friday, with the exception of Christmas, whose religious and secular traditions are intertwined." The Constitution forbids state establishment of religion, and the Supreme Court in 1971 adopted a three-part test to determine whether that mandate has been honored. The test requires that any state law must have a secular purpose, must not advance or inhibit religion and must not foster excessive government entanglement with religion. The case acted on Monday is Cammack vs. Waihee, 91-796. --- WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday refused to let two Illinois cities use religious symbols on their official seals. The justices rejected separate appeals by Zion and Rolling Meadows, Ill. The court, over three dissents, let stand a ruling that the Zion corporate seal violates constitutionally required separation of church and state. Justices Byron White, Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas voted to hear arguments in that case. But the votes of four justices are required to grant such review. By a 5-4 vote last week, the court strengthened its 30-year ban on officially sponsored worship in public schools as it prohibited prayers at graduation ceremonies. In that case from Rhode Island, the justices rejected a Bush administration invitation to discard the way it has interpreted for two decades the Constitution's ban on "an establishment of religion." But last week's ruling did not close the door on the possibility that the court would consider doing just that in some case that did not involve prayer sessions in public schools. Monday, the justices declined to use the Illinois cases to reexamine the high court's two-decade-old interpretation. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote in March, ruled that Zion's seal, emblem and logo unlawfully contain Christian symbolism. Zion was founded in 1902 by the Rev. John Alexander Dowie as a community "built for the extension of the kingdom of God upon earth." Dowie was the leader of an evangelical protestant sect, the Christian Catholic Church. Zion's ties to its religious roots for the most part have been severed, city officials said. It exists today "as a typical American community in its politics and government," they say. But the officials said they have tried to maintain the symbolism of the corporate seal as a reminder of Zion's cultural background, not as an endorsement of a religious sect. The seal says "God Reigns" and includes a shield with a cross, a dove and crown surrounding a scepter. The seal was challenged by Clint Harris, an atheist, and the Society of Separationists. Harris said he is offended by the seal's religious message, and he attempts to avoid it by altering his travel route so as not to see the logo on a city water tower. He said he also objects to the seal on a sticker city residents are required to place on their cars to show they have paid a vehicle tax. The appeals court said Harris' "alleged injuries, however slight, are indeed judicially cognizable. Zion's corporate seal, emblem and logo inevitably create an unmistakable impression that the local government tacitly endorses Christianity." At issue in the second Illinois case acted on Monday is a seal adopted by Rolling Meadows in 1960 to commemorate the city's fifth anniversary. The cases are Zion vs. Harris, 91-299; and Kuhn vs. Rolling Meadows, 91-141. ---

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