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Florida Supreme Court Reserves Decision on Religion in Schools

Florida’s Supreme Court reserved decision here today on arguments over the constitutionality of Bible-reading, Christmas celebrations and other religious practices in the public schools. The case is expected to be decided ultimately in the United States Supreme Court.

At issue in the case are a series of practices in the public schools of Dade County, Fla., which attorneys for the American Jewish Congress and the American Civil Liberties Union have challenged as “divisive, harmful and violative of religious freedom.” The two organizations are representing five Miami parents who brought suit in Dade County Circuit Court in 1960 to require local school authorities to discontinue the religious practices.

In his decision handed down last April, Circuit Judge J. Fritz Gordon upheld Bible-reading and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools. The five parents–three Jewish, one Unitarian and one agnostic–appealed this part of the decision today.

The lower court decision also prohibited sectarian holiday observances in public schools such as those depicting the Nativity and Crucifixion of Jesus; barred the showing of religious movies in public schools; and banned the use of school facilities for after-school religious classes by church groups. The Dade County school board did not appeal these parts of the lower court decision, but the “intervenors” did argue against them before the Florida Supreme Court here today.

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