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Public Prayer Ban at Texas High School Graduation Lifted by Court of Appeals

Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A federal appeals court has lifted a ban on public prayer at a Texas high school graduation.

The ruling Friday reverses the decision of a lower court that sided with an agnostic family who sued the school district.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Medina Valley Independent School District. The ruling allows students at the high school to say the words “amen” and invite the audience to pray during Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Christa and Danny Schultz, whose son is graduating. The family’s suit was being backed by the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Schultzes claim traditions at graduation, including the invocation and benediction, excluded their beliefs and violated their constitutional rights.

Statements by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Governor Rick Perry are included below.

Statement by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

“It should not be illegal for students to say a prayer at a graduation ceremony. Now, the federal court of appeals agrees.

A misguided attempt to prevent graduating seniors from exercising their First Amendment rights has been thwarted–and the Medina Valley High School Class of 2011′s graduation speakers will no longer suffer from court-ordered censorship.

Today, a federal appeals court reversed an order by a lower court that unconstitutionally prohibited students from offering prayers during graduation ceremonies. Under a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the district judge’s injunction has been dissolved and all students’ First Amendment rights have been protected.”

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on Federal Judge Overturning Ban of Prayer at Texas High School Graduation

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today made the following statement in response to the Fifth Circuit Court overturning a federal judge’s order prohibiting public prayer at a Texas high school graduation ceremony.

“I’m proud that the Fifth Circuit Court has overturned the lower court’s order that banned prayer at a Texas high school graduation. I’m thankful for Attorney General Abbott’s leadership in ensuring the First Amendment, which prohibits governments from interfering with Americans’ rights to freely express their religious beliefs, is protected. Texas will continue to fight for the rights of all those who wish to pray in our state.”

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