Santa Fe Indep. School Dist. v. Doe Case Brief

Summary of Santa Fe Indep. School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000)

Facts: Before 1995 a student chaplain delivered a prayer at every football game over the school PA. In response to D.Ct interim order, Dist est series of policies dealing w/ prayer at school. Policy for Graduation: Bd permitted graduating class, w/ advice and consent of principal, to elect to use invocation or benediction as part of graduation exercise. If elected, students will then vote on who will deliver nonsectarian, non-proselytizing invocation and benediction. Students decided to have prayer and chose two students to deliver. Two months later the Dist passed a policy eliminating the nonsectarian and proselytizing limitation.

Sport Events: omitted content requirement of nonsectarian or nonproselytizing, but included it if enjoined. Students voted to include prayer and who would deliver.

Issue(s): Whether the Dist policies permitting student lead, student initiated religious prayer at football games violates the Establishment Cl?

Holding: Yes, apart from the student delivery, the policy fails a facial challenge b/c it is an attempt by Govt to encourage prayer and endorse a religious viewpoint.

Procedure: The student chaplain practice was challenged in D. Ct: Order permitted nonsectarian, nonproselytizing prayer. Ct of App held that impermissible and invalid. In 1995 Responds (Does) sought injunction to preventing Christian invocations and benedictions during graduation ceremonies and prayers over PA systems at football games. D. Ct entered interim order that the “non-denominations prayer" could be presented by selected student(s) of graduating class, w/ text determined by students, w/o scrutiny by school officials. Ref to religious figures permitted if the main body of prayer was non-proselytizing. Following the Dist re-newed policies, D. Ct held graduation prayers were Christian, and prayer over PA at sporting events coerces student participation in religious events. Both Appealed. Ct of App held both policies violate Est Cl. U.S.S.Ct Affirmed.

Rule(s): 1st Amend Govt may not coerce support or participation in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act to establish a state religion, faith, or tend to do so.

Rationale: Private Speech: The pre-game invocation are not private speech b/c they are authorized by Govt policy and take place on Govt property. Here, Dist does not profess to open the forum to any use, but rather only allows one student to give a religious invocation that is subject to regulation by the Dist regarding content and topic. Election only ensures that only messages deemed appropriate are voiced-minority viewpoints are never expressed. Viewpoint neutrality guarantees that maj and minority views are treated equally. This election does nothing to protect minority view. Dist has not separated itself from the content determination.

Entanglement: Policy exposes the extent of the Dist’s involvement–principal provides advice and consent to proposed messages. Policy req’s prayer be consistent w/ goals and purpose of policy, to solemnize the event. Thus, only one type of message is expressly endorsed w/i invocation–one appealing to divine assistance. After election, delivery occurs on school property, at school sponsored function, over school’s PA, subject to control of school officials.

Rbl to infer that the specific purpose of policy to preserve ‘state sponsored religious practice," and it sends message to nonadherents that they are outsiders and unfavored.

Football Election/Debates: Est Cl removes Govt supervision or control over preservation and transmission of religious beliefs, and leaves the responsibility in the private sphere. Student elections, coupled w/ Dist supervised debates impermissibly invade into the private sphere. The policy serves to divide viewpoints along religious lines in a public school setting.

Extracurricular Attendance: Some students are required to attend, cheerleaders, atheletes, band members, etc. Const demands that Govt not require students to decide whether to attend or risk facing offensive religious events.

Facial challenge: Dist is correct that until a religious messages is given, there is no way to accurately determine it will contain a religious statement. But, Const requires vigilance on the subtle ways Est Cl can be eroded and guard against equally important Const’l injuries; such as 1) passage of policy that has purpose and perception Govt Est of Religion; or 2) implementation of Govt elector process that places a religious issue to a majority vote. Under Lemon Court must invalidate a law if it lacks “secular legislative purpose." Here, the text alone reveals significant Govt’l involvement; it specifies only one preferred message; and the selective access of that policy and other content restrictions reveal that it is not a content neutral restriction. Ct need not wait for the inevitable to confirm a Const’l injury.

DISSENT: there is not “might" lead to Const’l injury or Overbreadth exception in First Amend Est Cl cases. The policy has plausible secular purposes as well. If speech were at issue, it would be a private speech issue b/c students decide on the message’s content. Est Cl does not mandate “content neutrality," this is a speech standard, not Religion.

Df’s A: (Dist) Message by students are private student speech, not public speech, w/ the difference btwn Gvot speech endorsing religion and private speech endorsing religion.

Football policy is different from graduation b/c it does not coerce students to participate in religion: 1) pre-game messages are student produced; and 2) attendance at extracurricular events are voluntary.

Until a student actually delivers a solemnizing message under the policy at issue, there is no certainty that the message will contain a religious references. Policy cannot be invalidated on the mere possibility or likelihood a message in the future will contain an impermissible religious statement.


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