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Notable Lawsuit Over School Prayer in Washington

By    |   Sunday, 05 Jul 2015 11:56 PM

A 1991 school prayer lawsuit prompted officials at Washington's Yelm High School to do away with plans to continue making prayer a part of their graduation ceremonies.

The Yelm case came about in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 ruling in the New York case of Engel v. Vitale. The High Court in that case banned public schools from initiating prayer in the classroom, according to the Supreme Court website.

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Yet questions remained nearly three decades later about the constitutionality of allowing prayer at graduation ceremonies. Yelm High School in Thurston County, Washington, initially planned in 1991 to continue its practice of arranging for a prayer to be said at its annual graduation ceremony, according to the Seattle Times. Such a practice was in place in more than half the districts in the state of Washington. It added that when people complained, school districts typically said they were sorry and tightened up their policy, with one district – for example – replacing the graduation prayer with a "non-religious visionary statement."

But a Yelm High School math teacher and the parent of a graduating senior filed suit in 1991, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union, seeking to get the prayer removed from that ceremony, the Times reported. A Thurston County Superior Court judge issued an order the day before the ceremony preventing the prayer, the newspaper added. It indicated another Washington school district in Tacoma – despite not being sued – canceled its longstanding graduation ceremony prayer that year after receiving legal advice.

The U.S. Supreme Court addressed legal questions involved with the Yelm case the following year with a ruling it made in the Rhode Island case of Lee v. Weisman. The High Court concluded in a 5-4 vote that "schools may not promote religious exercises either directly or through an invited guest at graduation ceremonies," said The First Amendment Center.

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A 1991 school prayer lawsuit prompted officials at Washington's Yelm High School to do away with plans to continue making prayer a part of their graduation ceremonies.
school prayer, washington, lawsuits
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2015-56-05
Sunday, 05 Jul 2015 11:56 PM
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