Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive



Monday, March 6, 2000

CORNYN SCHEDULED FOR ORAL ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF SCHOOL PRAYER BEFORE U.S. SUPREME COURT

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced that he will present part of the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Doe v. Santa Fe ISD. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case on March 29.

"I believe allowing the State of Texas to present arguments will strengthen and add to those presented by the Santa Fe ISD. Asking the government to supervise religious speech is clearly unconstitutional, and I will protect Texas' position in this case," Attorney General Cornyn said.

The Santa Fe school district's policy allows the student body to choose by secret ballot whether to have a student message during the pre-game ceremonies of home varsity football games. That message may or may not include a prayer at the discretion of the student.

On February 26, 1999, a three-member panel of the Fifth Circuit held that this policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Although the Court held that the schools could allow students to deliver prayers at graduation as long as they are nonsectarian and nonproselytizing, the Court ruled that student-initiated prayers are never permissible at school-sponsored football games.

The Fifth Circuit refused to hear the case en banc, and now the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the case. Last year, the Attorney General filed a "Friend of the Court" brief with the US Supreme Court supporting the rights of students to gather in prayer.

This will be Cornyn's second oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. His first appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court occurred last November in Scott Leslie Carmell v. State of Texas. Attorney General Cornyn is the first Texas Attorney General since John Hill, who was Attorney General from 1973-78, to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050