Recap: Medina Valley ISD put a place for a benediction and invocation on their high school graduation ceremony. They were sued by a local family who wanted school prayer off the program. Medina Valley ISD removed the words "invocation" and "benediction from the commencement program, after a ruling from US District Judge Fred Biery ruled against them. Judge Biery also said at the time that students could not enjoin others to pray but could reference God in their remarks. But the valedictorian was upset because she had wanted to lead the crowd in a christian prayer. That's where Greg Abbott got in on the act and filed an appeal to overturn Biery The Appeals Court on June 3 of last year overturned Biery's ruling. Why? Because they agreed with school sponsored prayer? No.
On this incomplete record at this preliminary injunction stage of the case, we are not persuaded that plaintiffs have shown that they are substantially likely to prevail on the merits, particularly on the issue that the individual payers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation are, in fact, school-sponsored. We also observe in particiular that the plaintiff's motion may be rooted at least in part in circumstances that no longer exist. For example, the school has apparently abandoned including the words "invocation" and "benediction" on the program. The motion also did not expressly address the involvement of the valedictorian in the graduation ceremony.
See that? Because the district had already removed the words "benediction" and "invocation" and because the motion didn't address what the valedictorian might do.
What did the valedictorian do? She didn't do her own personal prayer but enjoined the audience to bow their heads with her and then she prayed in Jesus name.
Rick Perry, huge bigot that does not respect the religious rights of all, didn't understand the issue. (We know now that's the case since he has exposed himself on the national stage as being a dim bulb).
That brings us to the settlement, which was announced today. Here is the link to the documents re: Christa Schultz et al v Medina Valley Independent School District on the Western District of Texas site. First up, the judge had a personal statement in the basic opinion. Here's part
What this case has not been about
The right to pray
Any American can pray, silently or verbally, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, in private as Jesus taught or in large public events as Mohammed instructed.
The Real Issue
Does the United States Constitution allow a government entity elected by the majority to use its power to tax and its agents and employees to support and promote a particular religious viewpoint not held by a minorty?
Will get to the settlement and appendix in a moment, here's Judge Biery's personal statement.
A Personal Statement.
During the course of this litigation, many have played a part
To the United States Marshall Service and local police who have provided heightened security: Thank you.
To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you.
To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitability trumps probability.
To those in the executive and legislative branches of government who have demagogued this case for their own political goals: You should be ashamed of yourself.
To the lawers who haev advocated professionaly and respectfully for their client's respective positions.: Bless you.
Now here's the settlement agreement. In part:
A. Promotion of religion by School District officials and employees:
1. School district officials, administrators, teachers, staff, agents and/or employees ("School District Personnel") will not do any of the following in the presence of students, either during the school day or at School-District sponsored activies or events: (a) initiate, solicit or direct prayers, (b) join students in prayers (eg joining in a student prayer circle), (c) proselytize, or (e) invite a third party to engage in any of the practices listed in (a)-(c).
B. Religious icons and displays
1. School District Personnel will not display crosses, religious images, religious quotations, Bibles or religious textts or other religious icons or artifacts on walls, filing cabinets, halls, lobbies, locker rooms, windows and doors of Medina Valley High School, unless such is for pedagogical and non-religoius purposes (such as a history of world religions cours).
E. Student remarks at graduation.
1. Contents of graduation program.
a. The School District will not include a prayer-whether referred to as a prayer, blessing, invocation, benediction or otherwise- as part of the official program of any graduation ceremony
b. The portions of the program devoted to student speeches will each be given the same name, such as Student Remarks or a substantially similar but non-religious term. For instance "Student Remarks by [valedictorian]"
c. The School District will not invite speakers- including any government officials or community leaders- that it has reason to believe will prosletyze, promote religion or disparage the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of students or members of the community during their remarks
2. Contents of student graduation remarks
a. Other then the restrictions set forth in the Model Policy Governing Voluntary Religious Expression in Public Schools, Texas Education Code 25.156 and this Agreement, as set forth in C.2 (e) the School District may not restrict, revise, edit, alter, or otherwise influence the content of Student Remarks. The School District may require students to insert their Student Remarkes in the master notebook for all speakers so that they are in one place on the podium.
b. The School District may permit student graduation speakers to pary as part of Student Remarks.
c. The School District will not provide student graduation speakers with copies of previous student speeches.
d. The School District will not request or require that speakers submit Student Remarkes for review by School District Personnel and School District Personnel will not otherwise pre-screen the content of any Student Remarks.
e. The School District may prohibit student graduation speakers from advocating immiment violence, promoting illegal drug use, or engaging in speech that is "obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd or indecent".
f. The School District will provide a written copy of the Graduation disclaimer, set forth below in C.3, (a) to the students selected to make Student Remarks, upon selection.
3. Non ensdorsement of student graduation remarks.
a. The School District will include, in each printed graduation program, the following or substantially similar disclaimer ("Graduation Disclaimer" "Teh students who shall be speaking at graduation were selected based on neutral criteria to deliver messages of the students own choices. The content of each student speaker's message is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District. We ask that the audience sit and remain seated during the Student Remarks".
b. The School District will also delivere the Graduation Disclaimer orally at the beginning of the ceremony, prior to the first Student Remark.
c. The School District will not ask, request, or invited the audience to stand during any Student Remarks (other than the recitiation of the Pledge of Allegiance or the sining of the national anthem).
d. To the extent that the audience has been asked to stand for a portion of the graduation ceremony (such as the Pledge of Allegienace or national anthem) that precedes a Student Remark, the School District will ask the audience to be seated prior to any subsequent Student Remark.
e. In the event that a Student Remark contains a prayer or other religious speech, School District Personnel on the stage will not stand.
(Section about selection of valedictorian, not put in here)
5. FNA (Local) will be amended to conform to the requirements of this section.
D. Student remarks at football games, scholarship ceremonies, and other School District sponsored activities and events.
1. Contents of event program.
a. The School District will not include a prayer-whether entitled prayer, blessing, invocation, benediction, moment of reflection or otherwise-in the official program of any School District sponsored event, including but not limited to football games, scholarship and award ceremonies, and academic or athletic banquets.
b. The portions of the program devoted to student speeches, if any, will each be given the same name, such as Student Remarks or a substantially similiar but non-religious term. For instance "Student Remarks by (student volunteer)"
c. The School District will not invite speakers- including any government officials or community leaders-that it has reason to believe will proselytize, promote religion, or disparage the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of students or members of the community during their remarks.
There is another section again repeating what should be said in the way of disclaimers.
E. Non-Disparagement and Non-Retaliation.
1. School District Personnel will not retaliate against any student who complains or expresses concern- either to School District Personnel or otherwise- about an alleged violation of the terms of this Agreement or the requirements of the First Amendment to the U S Constitution.
2. School District Personnel will not retaliate agianst any other School District Personnel who complains or expresses concern-either to School District Personnel or otherwise-about an alleged violation of the terms of this Agreement or the requirements of the First Amendment to the US Constitiution.
3. School District Personnel will not disparage the Plaintiffs.
Next section deals with annual training for School District Personnel.Also, section G. says that Medina Valley High School student handbook will contain a section on students rights to religious freedom, including the importance of respect for and tolerance of students from all backgrounds etc
Who got paid in this case? Americans United for Separation of Church and State. How much did the local school district pay? $125,000 in attorneys fees and costs.
p 16 has what would be inserted for the student handbook.
1. Religious Activity in School
During the School day and at school-sponsored activities and events, School officials and personnel are prohibited from initiating, soliciting or directing prayers; from joining in prayers, such as student prayer circles, and from proselytizing.
During thes School day and at school-sponsored activities and events, School officials and personnel cannot invite others to initiated, solicit, or direct prayers, to join in prayers, such as student prayer circles or to proselytize.
2. Respect for Religious Diversity
Students and School officials should respect the religious diversity of Medina Valley High School students and staff, including individuals who choose not to practice any religion and those who do.
I'm going to put his third "Ironic Venue for Separation of Churcn ahd State" on its own post.