Texas Graduation Prayer Case Settled

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has reached a settlement in a case it filed in Texas over prayers included in a graduation ceremony. The settlement covers a wide range of religious activities in the school, though, not just graduation prayers. From an AU press release:

Under the terms of the settlement, district officials, administrators, teachers, staff and other employees will not initiate, solicit or direct prayers; join students in prayers; proselytize or invite others to engage in these practices.

“This settlement brings an end to several practices we believed were unconstitutional and that violated students’ rights,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “I’m glad we were able to resolve this matter out of court.”

Also under the settlement:

* School district personnel will not display crosses, religious images, religious quotations, Bibles or religious texts, or other religious icons or artifacts on the walls, hallways, and other areas at the school.

* The district will not invite speakers, including government officials or community leaders, whom it has reason to believe will proselytize or promote religion during their remarks.

* The 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 and the specific procedures for registering a complaint with district personnel about violations.

* The district will provide annual training to all district personnel who interact with students or parents or who supervise those who interact with students or parents. The training will cover a variety of topics related to students’ rights and church-state separation.

The judge in this case, Judge Biery, is known as a bit of an eccentric. He attached an appendix to his order accepting this settlement that was unorthodox, to say the least, a long, rambling diatribe on the history of religion. And it included this:

During the course of this litigation, many have played a part:

To the United States Marshal 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 inevitably 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 yourselves.

To the lawyers who have advocated professionally and respectfully for their clients’ respective positions: Bless you.

I like this guy.

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  • kermit.


    We need more judges like this. We would have a better society, and I might think more highly of Christians.

  • MikeMa

    Had the judge been Muslim, he’d have likely been lynched. As it is it seems the threats were pretty outrageous. Way to show that christian love.

  • curtcameron

    Also, on the very first page of the decision:

    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.

  • ArtK

    Ed, in your lexicon does “eccentric” mean “understands the law, the Constitution and is able to keep his own beliefs separate from them?” Whatever the definition is, we certainly need more judges like this.

  • joeina2

    “To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitably trumps probability.”

    This may be one of my favorite lines ever.

    And ArtK – I think Ed uses “eccentric” endearingly. He’d call him a wackjob if he thought that true.

  • ischemgeek

    That judge is awesome.

  • Cuttlefish

    Might just be my brain, but I could not find that last language in the appendix you linked, Ed. I note that it is appendix II, so was that from the first?

    I’m exceedingly glad I read the linked appendix, though–it is a wonderful, pithy defense of the wall of separation.

  • abb3w

    The appendix is worth reading, if for no other reason than the opportunity for reintroducing the word “Nothingarian” back into contemporary irreligious discourse.

  • Cuttlefish –

    I copied the text from another source, not from the appendix directly.

  • tomh

    @ Cuttlefish

    The part Ed quoted was added as “A Personal Statement” to the settlement agreement and can be found here.

  • tomh

    @ 10

    Correction – I meant it can be foud at the bottom of the judge’s order, not the agreement itself.

  • @ joeina2 says:

    “To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitably trumps probability.”

    This may be one of my favorite lines ever.

    I agree whole heartedly.

  • cottonnero

    I think there’s a typo in that line. Shouldn’t it be ‘as inevitability trumps probability’?

    Even then, it doesn’t quite make sense. Or maybe I’m parsing it incorrectly.

    (My dad, an econ/marketing professor, when someone talks about ‘in the long run/in the short run’, tends to say “Of course, in the very long run, we’re all dead.” Which I think is roughly the same sentiment.)

  • BinJabreel

    “Inevitability trumps probability” parses for me.

    In fact, I didn’t even notice the typo the first time past, because my brain just unconsciously pasted “inevitability” into the sentence because it made more sense than “inevitably”.

    Makes me think of the line,

    “It is said that anyone who owns this will surely die.”

    “Yes, but that’s true of anything if you wait long enough.”

  • frog

    I think this ruling has replaced the Hon. Samuel B. Kent’s Bradshaw vs Unity Marine as my favorite of all time.

  • meg

    I also love the two biblical quotes he uses in the order tomh linked to. Yes, Jesus mentioned prayer should be private, else you look like a hypocrite. Not the the wingnutters like this one.

  • Rasmus Odinga Gambolputty de von Ausfern….of Ulm

    Interesting typo on page 4 of App II, first sentence under the heading Grace and Torture:

    While religious institutions bestow many blessings and try to alleviate suffering, those acts of Grace are newtralized by Homo sapiens who exhibit an historical and continuing pernicious and pervasive tendency to kill other humans and confiscate the property of those, sometime even within the same religion, who do not believe as they do

    Now, I’m not saying that the judge took a little dig at Gingrich, but it’s awfully fun to imagine he did!

  • tomh

    @ #17

    Well, it could be payback since Judge Biery is a favorite target of Gingrich. After Biery banned the graduation prayer at the Texas high school, Gingrich called him “an anti-religious, dictatorial bigot” who seeks to “impose un-American values on the American people.” Another time, after a rant about the judiciary, Gingrich clarified by saying, “I would do no more than eliminate Judge Biery in San Antonio and the Ninth Circuit. That’s the most I would go for.”

    I already miss Gingrich since he’s started to fade. Santorum isn’t nearly as entertaining.

  • Aquaria

    To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you.

    I think I’m in love.

  • judykomorita
  • tomh

    They’re at it again in the Texas Prayer case. The settlement included a non-disparagement clause, which of course the defendants started violating within hours of the settlement, so the plaintiffs went back to court to ask the judge to enforce the settlement. Our old friend, Judge Biery, issued an order doing so, with the great title, “Non-Kumbaya Order: The Homo Sapien Saga Continues.” Well worth a read.