Indiana schools have served as a legal battleground over school prayer, with lawsuits and rulings covering everything from Bibles in school to pre-game prayers at school sports.
Here are three cases that have impacted students and religion expression in Indiana schools:
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Workman v. Greenwood Community
– Eric Workman, 2010 class valedictorian at Greenwood High School near Indianapolis, sued his school district during his last semester to end a tradition of letting seniors decide whether one of them should say a prayer at commencement, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A federal judge granted Workman a preliminary injunction against the school in late April, just weeks before graduation. School officials relented, and Workman dropped his lawsuit in return. "In my speech as class valedictorian," he later told FFRF, "I discussed the First Amendment to the Constitution and the principle of state-church separation."
Bellar v. River Forest
– The parents of a high-school athlete filed suit against their local school board in June 2015, claiming their son was persecuted by coaches and teammates because he refused to take part in pre-game prayers.
"We are not asking kids to not be allowed to pray if they choose to," Nicole Bellar, the mother of River Forest High School sophomore Jake Bellar, told The Post-Dispatch newspaper of Gary, Indiana.
She said the lawsuit is to force a change in pre-game prayer rituals "so no one feels out of place."
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Berger v. Rensellaer
– A federal appeals court ruled in 1993 that public schools in Rensellaer could not permit the Gideons to hand out Bibles to fifth-graders.
The school board's policy was challenged in court by a local parent. It was upheld by a lower court on the grounds that the Gideons were no different from secular groups, such as the Boy Scouts or 4-H, in being allowed to give out information to students, according to a University of North Carolina case summary.
The appeals court disagreed, as the First Amendment Center reported,
ruling that fifth graders can't be expected to grasp whether or not their school is endorsing, or merely allowing, a Bible giveaway, and that Rensellaer had violated the Establishment Clause's requirement that governments by religion-neutral.
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