Appeals Court Bars 'Priestly Blessing' at School Graduation

Article excerpt

Officials at a public middle school in New York acted within the law when they refused to allow a student to include a prayer in her remarks during a graduation ceremony, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The case involved an eighth-grade student, identified in court papers as A.M., who wanted to close her middle school graduation speech with a prayer taken from the Old Testament. The passage the girl wanted to read, Numbers 6:24-26, is often called the Priestly Benediction.

Officials at the Taconic Hills Central School District in Crayville, N.Y., declined to allow the girl to recite the Bible prayer, so her family lined up help from a small Religious Right-oriented law firm in Florida and sued.

A federal district court rejected the suit, and on Jan. 30 the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the A.M. v. Taconic Hills Central School District case, siding with school officials.

"The Religious Right is trying to use students to circumvent court rulings that have prohibited clergy and school employees from leading prayers at public school events," Alex J. …