Santa Fe ISD v. Doe

Francesca Lingat & Rachel Sliwinski

The Story:

In 1995, the school district adopted a policy that allowed schools to publicly pray at home football games. Two non-christian mothers, who chose to be anonymous, sued the school. When the case went to District Court initially, the ruling sided with the school. The school district then changed their policy to say that schools could have student-initiated and student-led prayer at home games and authorized the schools to elect two students, one to choose what would be said during these prayers and another to deliver them. When the two mothers, seen in the case as "Doe", took the case to the Court of Appeals, the court ruling sided with Doe. The school district then petitioned to the Supreme Court saying the policy could be allowed because the prayers were private student speeches, not public.

Constitutional Questions

This case involves the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. The Establishment Clause guarantees that the government will not persuade anyone to participate in any religion or its exercise. This case forbade public schools and their students from publicly praying at government funded events and places.

Ruling of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled on June 19, 2000 in favor of Doe. It was a 6-3 vote. Their reason was that the prayers were taking place on government property at a government sponsored event. They ruled that such speeches are not correctly categorized as "public" and therefore are unlawful because it clearly violates the First Amendment and Establishment Clause.
American Government: Santa Fe ISD vs. Doe