I'm sure by now you've heard all about the court cases in San Antonio, TX. The ones where a graduates parents ordered an injunction on a high school so that there wouldn't be a prayer or references to religion in their graduation ceremony. And how the court went so far as to bar the Valedictorian from mentioning God in her speech (she's a Catholic).
I've spoken a little bit about my issues with prayer in school and why I'm opposed to it. But I think the judge over-stepped his authority when he essentially censored the girl's speech. And so did the appellant court whose judge simply said that one person cannot trample upon another person's 1st amendment rights. The appellant court upheld that the school could not sponsor prayer or religious stuff in the ceremony, but it also struck down the lower courts ruling with regard to the valedictorian.
And that's how it should have been for me and my fellow classmates. Looking over the court case, I wonder how my school over-stepped it's bounds. Did the school approach the ministers or did the minister's approach the school? The first case would be very bad indeed so I tend to think that was not the case. If I had to guess the ministers approached the school, to which the school should have barred the ministers from praying at a school-sponsored football game. But they didn't. Instead they violated the first amendment rights of all the students who were obligated because of the classes that they were taking to be there. The list includes cheerleaders, football players, dance squad, the band, and any aids to the band or the football team. The school agreed to allow it and therefore sponsored it.
The difference between the valedictorian's speech and the ministers' prayers is that the valedictorian is a student and the ministers were not. The valedictorian is giving a speech; the ministers were giving prayer. If I had decided to step off the field, march up to the box, and start talking about or praying a Catholic prayer, the school could not bar me because those are my first amendment rights. I wouldn't do that anyway because that would cause a number of problems the biggest one being the situation isn't appropriate for things like that. A valedictorian speech thanking God for graduating and asking for support in life is appropriate.
There are many instances where free speech for students has been upheld. During the Vietnam war two students were suspended from school for wearing black arm bands. If you don't know your history, the black arm bands were meant to show that the students disagreed with the war. The courts upheld that the school could not suspend or expel the students because of free speech and the students were reinstated. And this court case has been the apex of free speech for students. It's why students are allowed to pray out loud over their sandwich, but the school cannot ask students to pray.
It's a fine balance to tread, but as I said before: fair is fair.