Here’s the story from the more journalistically neutral of the two:
A group of Christian students was allegedly ordered to stop praying outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on May 5 because a court police officer told them it was against the law.
The students were part of a junior high school American History class at Wickenburg Christian Academy in Arizona. After taking pictures on the steps of the Supreme Court building, their teacher gathered them to a side location where they formed a circle and began to pray.
According to Nate Kellum, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, a police officer “abruptly” interrupted the prayer and ordered the group to cease and desist.
“They were told to stop praying because they were violating the law and they had to take their prayer elsewhere,” Kellum told FOX News Radio.
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.
What law was in question? It’s not crucial for our purposes, but FOX News Radio reported that the officer may have thought 40 U.S.C. Section 6135 applied. That law deems it “unlawful to parade, stand or move in processions or assemblages in the building and grounds, including the plaza and steps, but not including the perimeter sidewalks.”
Did this group constitute a parade? Probably not. But should other news outlets have picked up on this story? I’d think so.
It’s not that this was a BIG story. Decades after the Supreme Court ruled school prayer unconstitutional and a full decade since the Court has heard any case on the subject, I highly doubt that there is a campaign to keep prayer away from 1 1st Street and everything that goes on inside.
In fact, the FOX News Radio story at least suggests that the officer’s action violated a non-policy (that being that there is no Court policy prohibiting prayer). So maybe this is a non-story. But that just about everyone completely overlooked it strikes me as odd.
At the least, this is the kind of quirky one-off stories that editors love. (Though I am now realizing that I neglected to mention it on The God Blog.) Why not at least give it a mention? Especially when you consider that this happened just before the National Day of Prayer.
Could the Alliance Defense Fund, which has taken up the students’ cause, be to blame? It was their open letter to the Court July 15 that got this story out there. But while they might be striving to be the ACLU of conservative Christian causes, their causes celebre tend to receive a much different reception from media members.
Or could it be that at two-plus months this story was just too old?
Or could it be something else entirely?