School prayer: Officials caught in war of words
By By Suzanne Monk and Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
June 20, 2001
State education officials say the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union on prayer at football games and graduations in Alabama will have no effect on their advice to school districts.
Thompson said school board attorneys across Mississippi have advised local school officials not to allow public prayer.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this week let stand an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing students to participate in voluntary group prayer at school functions, including football games and graduations.
Thompson said the high court's decision not to review the case doesn't change its ruling in a Texas case last year that barred school-organized prayers at football games.
The war of words leaves both school superintendents in Lauderdale County in a difficult position.
David Little, superintendent of the Lauderdale County School District, said the Supreme Court's stance may be a sign of increased tolerance for prayer in school.
Dr. Janet McLin, superintendent of Meridian Public Schools, said her personal convictions and her official policies overlap but are not identical.
McLin said a moment of silence was observed at Meridian home football games last fall, and that some people said the Lord's Prayer together during that time but there was no prayer over the intercom.
McLin said the school district's attorney is researching the matter to see what is, and is not, allowed.
Meridian High School Principal James Bounds said prayer is not offered at the beginning of football games, but student-initiated prayer is allowed during graduation.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, Attorney General Bill Pryor's official Web site includes guidelines about how school officials can allow voluntary prayer while still complying with the law. The Web site address is www.ago.state.al.us.
Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore could not be reached for comment.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.