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Graduation Prayer Allowed at Public School, 5th Circuit Rules

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

The graduation ceremony at Medina Valley High School in Castroville, Texas went off without a hitch this past weekend, and even managed to include a moment for a student-requested graduation prayer.

Such a moment almost didn't happen, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in on Friday, dissolving a preliminary injunction that had ordered the school to ban its valedictorian from asking audience members to join her in prayer.

This particular graduation prayer lawsuit was filed by parents of a graduating senior who felt that any prayer at their son's commencement ceremony would amount to forced religious participation.

They had learned that the valedictorian intended to request that attendees join her for a moment of prayer or bow their heads, reports CNN. The ceremony program had also included both an "invocation" and a "benediction."

A federal judge found that both of these circumstances likely amounted to school-sponsored prayer in violation of the Establishment Clause.

On Friday, the 5th Circuit overturned the graduation prayer injunction in a very brief ruling.

It said that it was "not persuaded ... that the individual prayers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation are, in fact, school sponsored."

Even though many are hailing this ruling as a win for graduation prayer in Texas, it's not as telling as it is made out to be.

The decision is one full paragraph that outright states that it is based on an incomplete record. This indicates that the court is open to a different outcome should a fuller record be produced. There are also no points of law cited, which means the decision is nearly impossible to rely on in future graduation prayer cases.

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