Facts: In Santa Fe, Texas, students were elected by their classmates to give pre-game prayers at high school football games over the loud speaker that were mainly Christian. A Catholic and a Mormon family felt this was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The school district has always done pre-game invocations before each game however while the case was pending the school district changed their policy, still permitting student led prayer but not requiring them as they were before. The District Court ordered that only nonsectarian and nonproselytizing prayers could be given. When the case went to The Court of Appeals, they found that the policy was still invalid. The district filed a writ of certioran claiming the new policy was not a violation of the Establishment Clauses because they could be considered a private student speech because they were no longer required at all home games and they were not a public speech.
Does a prayer delivered by a student over a loud speaker violate the Establishment Clause?
In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the prayers given by students over the loud speaker doe violate the Establishment
The Court reasoned with the facts that a prayers given at the football field or any sporting event were not private speeches that were authorized by government policy on government grounds during school events that are funded by the government. As the student is giving the prayer there is no open forum as would be the case during public speeches. Without this in place, prayers before sporting events are not considered to be public speeches but are considered to be sponsored by the school. The new policy the school had to elect students to be the spokespersons to deliver the prayers was also criticized, leading the justices to believe the school was still controlling the process.