A federal court upheld a New Jersey school district policy prohibiting faculty from participating in school prayer.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a district court ruling that declared the policy “over broad and vague” and a violation of the faculty’s constitutional rights.
At issue was the practice of Marcus Borden, a football coach in East Brunswick, N.J., who would kneel in prayer with his players before games.
After receiving complaints about Borden’s behavior, the district ordered him not to initiate or even participate in any prayers. Borden subsequently sued the district for violating his right to free association and freedom of religion.
“It’s a narrow victory but a very grudging one,” said Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress.
The court determined that in light of Borden’s 23-year history of prayer activities, it appeared he was endorsing religion – the implication being that had he not had such a history, the court would have ruled differently.
“That’s an extraordinarily problematic holding,” Stern said.