Skip to main content.
A non-profit service providing academics, religion professionals and other researchers with religion & cult news
ReligionNewsBlog

Religion news articles about religious cults, sects, world religions, and related issues

Home | About RNB Related: Cult FAQ | Cult Experts | Apologetics Index | Cult Information Search Engine
More articles about: Church and State:

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on VMI Supper Prayers

Reuters, USA
Apr. 26, 2004
James Vicini
story.news.yahoo.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday April 28, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A divided U.S. Supreme Court let stand on Monday a ruling that reading a prayer before supper to Virginia Military Institute cadets violated the constitutionally required separation of church and state.

The court rejected an appeal by a current and former superintendent at the nation’s oldest military college defending as constitutional the tradition of offering a brief, nondenominational prayer before the evening meal.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent that Chief Justice William Rehnquist joined. Scalia, a conservative who supports government accommodation of religion, said the appeal raised “weighty questions” that “deserve this court’s attention.”

Although Scalia and Rehnquist wanted to review the case, it takes four votes for the court to hear an appeal.

Among those who opposed the appeal, Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, cited procedural problems with the case and a lack of direct conflict by appeals courts on the issue.

The Supreme Court in 1962 banned prayers in public school classrooms and 30 years later barred prayers at graduation ceremonies. In 2000, the justices struck down student-led prayers at high school football games.

The prayers at VMI, founded in 1839 as a state-funded military college in Lexington, Virginia, were written by the school’s chaplain. He composed a separate supper prayer for each day.

The prayers, read by a cadet, begin with “Almighty God,” “O God,” “Father God,” “Heavenly Father,” or “Sovereign God.” Each day’s prayer was dedicated to giving thanks or asking God’s blessing.

The prayer, which lasted less than 30 seconds, was part of a supper roll call ceremony held every night except Saturday. The cadets were not required to recite the prayer.

Cadets Neil Mellen and Paul Knick sued in 2001 and claimed the prayers violated constitutional church-state separation.

A federal judge in Virginia and a U.S. appeals court agreed. The appeals court concluded the cadets had been coerced to participate in a religious exercise and barred VMI from sponsoring the prayers.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, representing the VMI superintendents, argued a public institution of higher education may offer such a prayer at an official event with an audience of adults.

He said the appeals court ruling could have implications for prayers at other military ceremonies, such as those held at the U.S. Naval Academy, college ROTC programs and military installations.

Twelve states — Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — supported the appeal.

info Original content is © Copyright Religion News Blog. All rights reserved.
    Do not republish or repost. Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

share this article Share this article

tag Related Articles

arrow
arrow Topic(s): Church and State

Comment Comment

Join Religion News Blog at Google+ to comment, share, and follow.

RSS Feed Follow Us


 Follow

Religion News You May Like This As Well

Why are you not using Nozbe?

Don't you need to get things done?

Religion News Search Search Religion News Blog