Msg # 237 Date: 08 Jul 92 22:10:42 To: All Subj: Lee et al vs Weisman _ MSGID: 1:343/96.1

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Msg # 237 Date: 08 Jul 92 22:10:42 From: Travis Beard To: All Subj: Lee et al vs Weisman ____________________________________________________________________________ MSGID: 1:343/96.1 5f161b2e PID: FM 2.02 SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Syllabus LEE et al. v. WEISMAN, PERSONALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF WEISMAN certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the first circuit No. 90-1014. Argued November 6, 1991-Decided June 24, 1992 Principals of public middle and high schools in Providence, Rhode Island, are permitted to invite members of the clergy to give invoca- tions and benedictions at their schools' graduation ceremonies. Petitioner Lee, a middle school principal, invited a rabbi to offer such prayers at the graduation ceremony for Deborah Weisman's class, gave the Rabbi a pamphlet containing guidelines for the composition of public prayers at civic ceremonies, and advised him that the prayers should be nonsectarian. Shortly before the ceremony, the District Court denied the motion of respondent Weisman, Deborah's father, for a temporary restraining order to prohibit school officials from including the prayers in the ceremony. Deborah and her family attended the ceremony, and the prayers were recited. Subsequently, Weisman sought a permanent injunction barring Lee and other petitioners, various Providence public school officials, from inviting clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at future graduations. It appears likely that such prayers will be conducted at Deborah's high school graduation. The District Court enjoined petitioners from continuing the practice at issue on the ground that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Held:Including clergy who offer prayers as part of an official public school graduation ceremony is forbidden by the Establishment Clause. Pp.7-19. (a)This Court need not revisit the questions of the definition and scope of the principles governing the extent of permitted accommoda- tion by the State for its citizens' religious beliefs and practices, for the controlling precedents as they relate to prayer and religious exercise in primary and secondary public schools compel the holding here. Thus, the Court will not reconsider its decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602. The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause, which guarantees at a minimum that a government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which ``establishes a [state] religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.'' Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 678. Pp.7-8. (b)State officials here direct the performance of a formal religious exercise at secondary schools' promotional and graduation ceremonies. Lee's decision that prayers should be given and his selection of the religious participant are choices attributable to the State. Moreover, through the pamphlet and his advice that the prayers be nonsectari- an, he directed and controlled the prayers' content. That the direc- tions may have been given in a good faith attempt to make the prayers acceptable to most persons does not resolve the dilemma caused by the school's involvement, since the government may not establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds. Pp.8-11. (c)The Establishment Clause was inspired by the lesson that in the hands of government what might begin as a tolerant expression of religious views may end in a policy to indoctrinate and coerce. Prayer exercises in elementary and secondary schools carry a particu- lar risk of indirect coercion. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421; Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203. The school district's supervision and control of a high school graduation ceremony places subtle and indirect public and peer pressure on attending students to stand as a group or maintain respectful silence during the invoca- tion and benediction. A reasonable dissenter of high school age could believe that standing or remaining silent signified her own participa- tion in, or approval of, the group exercise, rather than her respect for it. And the State may not place the student dissenter in the dilem- ma of participating or protesting. Since adolescents are often suscep- tible to peer pressure, especially in matters of social convention, the State may no more use social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it may use direct means. The embarrassment and intrusion of the religious exercise cannot be refuted by arguing that the prayers are of a de minimis character, since that is an affront to the Rabbi and those for whom the prayers have meaning, and since any intrusion was both real and a violation of the objectors' rights. Pp.11-15. (d)Petitioners' argument that the option of not attending the ceremony excuses any inducement or coercion in the ceremony itself is rejected. In this society, high school graduation is one of life's most significant occasions, and a student is not free to absent herself from the exercise in any real sense of the term ``voluntary.'' Also not dispositive is the contention that prayers are an essential part of these ceremonies because for many persons the occasion would lack meaning without the recognition that human achievements cannot be understood apart from their spiritual essence. This position fails to acknowledge that what for many was a spiritual imperative was for the Weismans religious conformance compelled by the State. It also gives insufficient recognition to the real conflict of conscience faced by a student who would have to choose whether to miss graduation or conform to the state-sponsored practice, in an environment where the risk of compulsion is especially high. Pp.15-17. (e)Inherent differences between the public school system and a session of a state legislature distinguish this case from Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, which condoned a prayer exercise. The atmosphere at a state legislature's opening, where adults are free to enter and leave with little comment and for any number of reasons, cannot compare with the constraining potential of the one school event most important for the student to attend. Pp.17-18. 908 F.2d 1090, affirmed. Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor, and Souter, JJ., joined. Blackmun, J., and Souter, J., filed concurring opinions, in which Stevens and O'Connor, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and White and Thomas, JJ., joined. --- * Origin: God made grass, man made booze. Who do you trust? (1:343/96.1) SEEN-BY: 13/13 135/41 151/100 1000 1003 373/2 374/1 12 14 98 3609/16 SEEN-BY: 3641/1 PATH: 343/96 300 209/209 13/13 151/1003 374/1 14


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