SAN ANTONIO — Public prayer will be allowed at a Texas high school graduation after a federal appeals court on Friday reversed a ban won by an agnostic family that claimed ceremony traditions such as invocations were unconstitutional.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency appeal filed by the Medina Valley Independent School District. Its San Antonio-area high school was ordered by a federal judge this week to forbid students at Saturday's graduation from asking audience members to join in prayer or bow their heads. The judge suggested that students modify their remarks to be "statements of their own beliefs."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Christa and Danny Schultz, who said watching their son receive a diploma this weekend would amount to forced religious participation. The Castroville parents argued that traditions such as invocation and benediction excluded their beliefs.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and various conservative groups, which had rallied to the defense of the school, hailed Friday's ruling by the three-judge panel.
"It should not be illegal for students to say a prayer at a graduation ceremony. Now, the federal court of appeals agrees," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who filed a brief in support of the school.