Lee vs. Weisman

A Case of school sponsored prayer

Case Overview

Middle school principal Robert E. Lee from Providence, Rhode Island invited a rabbi to speak at his schools graduation ceremony. Daniel Weisman, in disagreement with the school sought a temporary injunction to stop the rabbi from speaking. His request was denied, and after the ceremony he filed for a permanent injunction to stop schools from inviting clergy as speakers at school ceremonies. Weisman won the case in a 5-4 decision in a 1992 Supreme Court ruling (Oyez, n.d.).

Educators Actions

Robert E. Lee as the school principal acted in accordance with other schools in the area in inviting a clergyman to speak at graduation. Lee did not respect the views and beliefs of the families in the community that he serves. Lee appealed rulings by lower courts that barred the use of clergy for invocations and benedictions at school ceremonies.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled that government involvement in this case creates "a state-sponsored and state-directed religious exercise in a public school." The school in question created a subtly coercive environment forcing students to act in ways that establish a state religion (Oyez n. d.).

Finding The Balance

In this case, Lee could have found a non religious speaker for the graduation at his school.

It can be hard to balance religious diversity and the separation of church and state, but a possible option in this case might have been a secular speaker and a period of silent reflection during the ceremony to provide for those who wish to pray in their own way.

In the Shoes of Robert E. Lee

In the same situation I would do a few things differently. Knowing that students in the school were opposed to the designated speaker, I would have tried to accommodate the beliefs of the student by attempting to replace the speaker. Also knowing that rulings had already passed about prayer in school and in keeping with the separation of church and state I would have sought to comply with the previous rulings.

Joe Austin


October 12, 2015

George, Jr. Giordano


Lee v. Weisman. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved October 12, 2015, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-1014