Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Wednesday, January 5, 2000


Brief on the merits of the Sante Fe I.S.D. school prayer case is filed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, Governor George W. Bush, the State of Texas and several other states today announced the filing of an amici curiae brief on the merits in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Santa Fe Independent School District's policy of allowing students to give a message, including a prayer, if the student chooses, at high school football games.

"The Santa Fe I.S.D.'s student-message policy is constitutional," said Attorney General Cornyn. "The policy does not require the student to give a prayer, but simply permits a prayer to be given if the student chooses to do so. To prevent a student from praying under this policy will violate the First Amendment. Asking the State to supervise and censor religious speech is clearly unconstitutional," Cornyn added.

Attorney General Cornyn, Governor Bush, and the State of Texas filed an amici curiae brief in Doe v. Santa Fe I.S.D. before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last March. That brief asked that the Fifth Circuit re-hear the case en banc (meaning before the full court), following a three judge panel's decision last February that ruled against Santa Fe I.S.D. The three judge panel ruled that the district's prayer policy violated the First Amendment because it did not prohibit "sectarian" or "non-proselytizing" prayers by students.

After the Fifth Circuit denied the Santa Fe I.S.D. motion for re-hearing en banc, the school district asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, and the court agreed. Attorney General Cornyn filed an amici curiae brief supporting Santa Fe I.S.D. in that appeal last August.

The Attorney General filed the latest amici curiae brief on the merits of Doe v. Sante Fe I.S.D December 30th.. with the U.S. Supreme Court. The states of Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee also joined the amici curie brief filed by the State of Texas. Oral arguments are expected to be scheduled for sometime in March.

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