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Lee v. Weisman

    Brief Fact Summary. Weisman (Respondent) objects to the practice of having clergy provide prayers at high school graduation.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Conducting prayers at public high school graduation violates the Establishment Clause.

    Facts. School principals in Providence, Rhode Island are allowed to invite members of the clergy to provide invocation for middle and high school graduations. Lee (Petitioner), a school principal, invited a rabbi to deliver the graduation prayer. Prior to his arrival the principal provided basic guidelines for the content of the prayer.

    Issue. Does it violate the Establishment Clause to allow clergy to provide prayers at graduation?

    Held. Yes. A school may not compel a student to participate in a religious activity. A graduation ceremony requires student attendance. The student may choose to skip the ceremony, but to do so is to forfeit the social benefit of celebrating this educational achievement.

    Dissent. Prayer at graduation has a long history. Clearly, the United States Constitution does not mean to eclipse this practice.
    Concurrence. Government pressure to participate in religious activity is an obvious indication that the government is endorsing or promoting religion.

    Discussion. The district involvement in the prayer is so strong that it has created a state sponsored and directed religious activity in a public school. A school official organized the event, invited the religious speaker, and even provided prayer guidelines. Since the ceremony is mandatory the state held participants hostage to the activity and forced quiet respect if not approval of the prayer.


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