Two Establishment Clause Cases — One Strong, One Weak

Both courtesy of Howard Friedman.  The strong case is one which, if the allegations in the complaint are true, certainly violates the Establishment Clause.  The case is Anderson v. Chesterfield County School District, filed yesterday, where the  plaintiff alleges (1) that at an assembly, the principal gave a prayer and referred to Jesus Christ, during which other students pressured the plaintiff’s son to bow his head; (2) the singing of religious songs at the concert (for what it’s worth, I do not think this allegation, standing alone, is worth much); (3) that at other assemblies there was school-sponsored and school-led prayer; (4) that at one assembly “the school held an evangelical revival . . . featuring a Christian rapper, a minister, and other volunteers from a local church who prayed with and proselytized students” (a very serious allegation); (5) at another assembly, a minister told students that “a relationship with Jesus is what you need” (also extremely serious); and (6) students were asked to sign a pledge dedicating themselves to Jesus Christ and were given other religious literature (same).   There are other allegations as well, some as powerful as these, some less so.  But it seems to me that these are extraordinarily strong claims for a violation of the Establishment Clause — outright religious proselytism in public school is way out of bounds.

The weak case is one out of the Second Circuit, Bronx Household of Faith v. New York City Bd. of Ed., in which the City barred the use of public buildings for religious activities, including “worship services.”  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not grant cert. on this case, which seems to me indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from the issue in Good News Club v. Milford (also out of, and reversing, the 2d Circuit).  Here are my criticisms of the Second Circuit’s opinion.

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