Courts duel on Texas school prayers

June 5, 2011 at 3:27 PM

SAN ANTONIO, June 5 (UPI) -- A Texas high school graduation ceremony was held with repeated prayers despite two conflicting federal court rulings and much heated rhetoric, observers said.

Despite a disclaimer at the beginning of the ceremony by the school district's superintendent saying students' and speakers' views were their own, Medina Valley High School's seniors graduated Saturday with in a ceremony featuring numerous prayers and "amens" greeted with applause, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

The controversy was ignited last month when parents of a graduating senior filed a lawsuit arguing that in past years the school violated a 1992 Supreme Court ruling barring school-sponsored prayer by including student-led invocations and benedictions at graduation ceremonies.

Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio granted an emergency court order on May 31 that banned public prayer at Saturday's ceremony.

Representatives of the Medina Valley Independent School District said they weren't violating the Constitution but did remove the words "invocation" and "benediction" from the commencement program.

On Friday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Biery's decision, ruling individual student prayers did not equate to school-sponsored prayer. The suit is pending in federal court.

Corwyn Schultz, the student whose parents filed the suit, was not among the seniors crossing the stage.

The Schultz family has declined to comment on the rulings, the Express-News reported.

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