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Monday, February 12, 2007

Courts - More on: Motion to reconsider filed by both sides re local Louisiana school board prayer decision by the 5th Circuit

Updating this ILB entry from January 20th on the three-year legal battle over prayers at Tangipahoa Parish School Board meetings, where both sides had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its divided decision, the Advocate of Baton Rouge reported Sunday:

DENHAM SPRINGS — Judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will rehear arguments on whether prayers that open School Board meetings in Tangipahoa Parish are constitutional, a court order said Friday.

Both the School Board and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the parent and public school children who sued over the board practice in October 2003, sought the rehearing en banc, or before the full court.

An order filed Friday in the New Orleans-based appeals court said a majority of justices polled voted in favor of granting the rehearing en banc.

Both sides in the litigation must file briefs, and oral arguments are scheduled for the week of May 21, a cover letter with the order says.

Neither side was satisfied with Dec. 15 decision from a three-judge panel of the court and filed motions seeking a rehearing.

The split decision left open the possibility for non-sectarian prayer but didn’t deliver the definitive call over which Supreme Court precedent should hold sway. The order on Friday vacated that decision.

“We’re pleased that the court is going to grant the rehearing, and we’re optimistic they will agree, (that) the full panel will take look at the jurisprudence and agree with us,” Joe Cook, executive director of the ACLU’s Louisiana chapter, said Saturday.

The American Civil Liberties Union is pressing for a legal standard that would bar all prayers at meetings to ensure that a school system doesn’t advance or inhibit religion.

The School Board is pushing for a different precedent that would treat the board under a exemption now reserved for Congress and legislatures, allowing sectarian prayers as long as they don’t advance religion.

“I think both sides would like some clarification on what course of conduct in the future is appropriate and is not,” School Board attorney Kirk Gasperecz said Saturday.

“I’m not sure the parties got the guidelines they hoped for in the original decision.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 12, 2007 12:16 PM
Posted to Courts in general