Appellate Court to Decide Role of Prayer in High School Football

A case out of the Third Circuit may help define the line between public education and religion. Marcus Borden, a football coach in East Brunswick, N.J., has been sanctioned for his participation in a team prayer before each game. Borden has been fighting for the religious tradition for years, including inviting clergy to lead he prayer. In 1997, East Brunswick school officials told Borden to stop inviting clergy to lead pregame prayers. He then began leading the prayers himself until parents complained to the school board in 2005. The board threatened him with disciplinary action unless he stopped and he resigned. He later returned to his job and filed a lawsuit.
It is a case designed for the new Supreme Court with both Roberts and Alito as the newest members. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 upheld a ban on officially sponsored prayer, holding that said students could not lead crowds in (even voluntary) prayer before football games. Here the prayer occurs in a private area and is allegedly led by students. Notably, during oral argument, Third Circuit Judge Theodore A. McKee, observed: “Knowing the (coach’s) history, I’m not sure I’d want to say, ‘No, I don’t want to pray.’ ”

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