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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Organizing Prayer in the Public Schools


Topics on this page: Jewish family flees Delaware school district | See You at the Pole brings prayer to the schoolyard | Religious right promotes prayer at graduations, 2006 | Graduation 2007 | School prayer in the news | Fundamentalist "Revive" group aims to establish prayer in public schools | State-by-state reports on school prayer | East Brunswick, New Jersey, football coach fights to pray with team | Evangelicals targeting public institutions' sports programs

Indian River School District, Delaware: state-sponsored religion


Jewish families settle lawsuit against Delaware school district that sponsored religion
"Jane Doe" plaintiff tells of her family's experience in exclusive interview with JewsOnFirst.org

by JewsOnFirst.org, February 26, 2008

Two Jewish families who sued a Delaware school district for unconstitutionally sponsoring religion announced today that they have reached a negotiated settlement with the district. The settlement will require the Indian River School District, which spreads over a large part of southeast Delaware, to implement new policies regarding religion. It also provides compensation to the two families, whose children suffered religious discrimination.

Last year JewsOnFirst reported on the case, focusing on the Dobrich family, who felt compelled by threats and anti-semitic harassment to move away from the community. Today we focus on the other family, named "Doe" in the lawsuit, who remained in the school district during the almost three years since the filing of the lawsuit.

Now Jane Doe has given an exclusive interview to JewsOnFirst.org, describing her family's experiences leading up to the lawsuit and while the litigation was going on. Doe said she played a significant role in writing the new policies on religion for the school district. She said that, while the settlement lacks some points the families hoped to win at trial, "it gets enforceable and constitutional policies into place immediately." Continue.

Jewish family flees Delaware school district's aggressive Christianity

by JewsOnFirst.org, June 28, 2006

A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit. The religion (if any) of a second family in the lawsuit is not known, because they're suing as Jane and John Doe; they also fear retaliation. Both families are asking relief from "state-sponsored religion."

Their suit describes how the graduation of the sole Jewish student in her class was ruined by a pastor asking in Jesus' name that the "Father" be with "one specific student...and guide her in the path that You have for her." It also describes how a crowd of adults at a school board meeting yelled at her little brother to take off his yarmulke and how his classmates called him "Christ killer." Please click here.

We updated this report on July 11th (see below) and August 23rd (please click here).

Follow-up: Bloggers make JewsOnFirst report on Delaware Jewish family a sensation
Anti-ACLU websites published Jewish family's address, phone

by JewsOnFirst.org, July 11, 2006

When major blogs picked up the story of the Dobrich family that fled the aggressive Christianity of Delaware's Indian River School Districts, readers sent expressions of support. The blogs "outed" a religious right anti-ACLU website that encouraged more persecution of the Dobrich family. Please click here.

Delaware district might be using families' lawsuit against it for Supreme Court test
Rutherford Institute encouraging risky school board strategy

by Jane Hunter, JewsOnFirst.org, July 11, 2006

JewsOnFirst breaks the story that the Indian River School District, urged on by the Rutherford Institute, a religious right legal group, might be planning to use the Dobrich and Doe families' lawsuit against it as a Supreme Court test case for school board prayer policies. The Rutherford Institute has been encouraging the Indian River School District board to make decisions favoring religious stances. Please click here

Brazoria, Texas starts drive to reinstitute school prayer



As Texas State Officials Push Religious Legislation, Small Texas City Launches Push for Prayer in Schools
"I don't think church and state need to be separated," Brazoria's mayor tells JewsOnFirst.org.

by JewsOnFirst.org, April 17, 2007

Amid a surge efforts by elected officials in Texas to legislate religious (read fundamentalist Christian) measures, the small city of Brazoria is organizing Texas cities to reinstitute prayer in the schools.

"I don't think church and state need to be separated," the mayor of Brazoria told us in an interview about that Texas city's campaign to reinstitute prayer in public schools. He said he hopes that school prayer will reverse a slide in morals by bringing religion to children whose parents aren't involved with a church.

Our report also includes an update on last week's report on Texas state legislation that would mandate a Bible studies elective in public schools and notes two more Texas bills that hack away at church-state separation. Please click here.

"See you at the pole" day, 2007, puts prayer on school grounds

See You at the Pole brings prayer to the schoolyard

Background by JewsOnFirst, October 9, 2007

See You at the Pole is a national group that coordinates annual prayer rallies at school flag poles. It claims its prayer rallies are student led. However, coordinating the students is a slick organization that has branded its name, obtained a telephone number that reads "817.HIS.PLAN" and collected the endorsement of dozens of Christian right ministries and institutions, including Focus on the Family, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Campus Crusade for Christ and Southwest Baptist University. All this, plus press contacts and sophisticated media downloads (such as the one shown here), is on the group's website, here.

Also on the website, See You At The Pole sets forth its rationale for staging these religious displays on school property:

God is continuing to call His people to repentance and prayer. Countless inspiring testimonies of how He has used See You at the Pole to bring students to Christ and to change lives affirm God’s power to answer those who cry out to Him in humble dependence. Bible clubs, weekly prayer meetings, and other ministries have begun on campuses where students participated in SYATP.
CJI students hold “See Ya At The Pole” rally

Eric Munson, Liberty County Times (Chester, Montana), October 3, 2007

September 26th was See You At The Pole. While it might not be known to everyone it is the biggest prayer rally in the history of the world.

It is also led by teenagers.

See You At The Pole or SYATP is a internationally coordinated prayer meeting where Jr. and Sr. High school students gather around their school's flag pole and pray for their friends, schools, teachers, and communities....

This past SYATP event here had 15, 7th-12th grade students, participate at our C-J-I school. These students got up early, started their day off with breakfast across the street and at 7:30 AM gathered around the flagpole to pray for our students, teachers, and the administrators of our schools.

With so many communities having to deal with troubled teen issues, it is wonderful to see a group of students have a heart for other students, their school, and community. See You At The Pole is scheduled for the fourth Wednesday in September at 7:30 AM every year. If your student would like to be a part of this, put it on your calendar for next year. Click here.

Students gather to pray at Concord High
Christian groups nationwide mark 'See You at the Pole'

Alison Kepner, The News Journal, (Wilmington, Delaware), September 27, 2007

The sun was rising Wednesday morning when the first two students arrived at Concord High School's flagpole to pray.

As more students gathered, tossing their book bags by the door or under a nearby tree, their small circle expanded. By 7:30 a.m., just before the group broke from 30 minutes of praise and prayer, 40 students and teachers stood, heads bowed, on the small lawn.

"I really like seeing who is a Christian at my school and talking to them and showing my faith to everyone who walks into the building, so they know that I believe in God," sophomore Kelsie Jones said. Continue.

Students put their faith on display
Teens across area come together at their school flag poles for annual organized prayer event

Michael Miller, Peoria Journal Star, September 27, 2007

East Peoria - More than 40 students gathered at the flag pole in front of East Peoria Community High School on Wednesday morning for one thing - prayer.

They joined others around central Illinois and across the United States for See You at the Pole, an annual student-organized and student-led prayer event.

See You at the Pole is held outside school buildings before classes start so there won't be any problems with court rulings on school prayer.

Laura Hawkins, 16, said it was worth getting to school earlier than normal for the event on Wednesday. "It seems like it's the only time where we get to do something like this at school," the junior said.

Kelly Gauwitz, 15, also a junior, said it was a way of taking a stand. "Some people don't like the fact of praying in schools," she said. "This is our day of doing it." Continue.

God, country and school prayer

Kiley Miller, The Hawk Eye, (Burlington, Iowa), September 26, 2007

Mount Pleasant -- Sunlight on the flag, a goldfinch perched on a dried flower blossom, and 14 students lifting their voices in song: "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart."

This was See You at the Pole at Mount Pleasant High School -- sweet, contemplative and, in some ways, beautiful.

Held around the globe Wednesday, See You at the Pole brings prayer to public schools once each year in a way legislators and the court system allow.

"We prayed for the president, the troops and other students," said 18-year-old Alicia Kokaly. Continue.

Nationwide, students gather at 'See You at the Pole' to pray

Baptist Press, September 26, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Students across the nation took advantage of their freedom of speech and assembly Sept. 26 as they gathered around flagpoles to pray, share testimonies and worship God with songs.

Chad Childress, director of student evangelism at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, described See You at the Pole as "empowering to students because it gives 3 million students throughout the United States an opportunity to gather in a cross-denominational setting and see other students who believe as they do -- that there's something greater."

"It also is an awakening, on a small scale, for students who for the first time ever begin to see their school as a mission field," Childress said. "That's what NAMB is about, so we want to be behind anything that does that." Continue.

Students gather for prayer at schools' flagpoles

Ed Thomas, OneNewsNow.com, September 26, 2007

Students will rally around school flagpoles today as they participate in the 17th annual "See You at the Pole" (SYATP) nationwide rally

The rally was designed for students who recognize the need for them and their peers to ask God for intervention in their lives and communities. The event is student-initiated and student-led. One source says three million students from all 50 U.S. states and from countries around the world participate each year.

This year's SYATP theme, based on John 17:20-23, is "Gather, Unite, Pray, and Come Together." Participants will pray for classmates, teachers, schools, families, communities, states, and countries around the world.

The United States Department of Education's "Guidelines on Religious Expression in Public Schools" says students may participate in SYATP, as well as read their Bible during free time. Click here.

Fundamentalist "Revive" group aims to establish prayer in public schools

Prayer vigil, gospel music kicks off school year

By Kelly Richardson, News Enterprise (Hardin County, Kentucky), July 31, 2007

ELIZABETHTOWN — A public prayer meeting designed to invoke blessings for the coming school year attracted a youth group pushing to restore prayer in schools and Hardin County’s singing superintendent.

About 50 people from local schools and churches gathered Tuesday at Pritchard Community Center to pray for the upcoming school year and congressional legislation that will affect schools and students.

Nannette Johnston, Hardin County Schools’ new superintendent, helped open the back-to-school prayer vigil as she performing a few songs as part of the gospel group Testify.

The Grand Rivers Baptist Church youth group traveled about two and a half hours from the Land Between the Lakes area to attend. They work with the Revive project, whose purpose is to return prayer to public schools. They pray in school buildings one Sunday a month and welcome Christians of all denominations to join. Continue.

From the Revive group's website

Visited August 5, 2007

God is spreading the word all across America from Texas to Alabama to Illinois about the Revive Prayer Walks. If you are a first time viewer of this website we hope you will get involved and be part of the uniting of Christians at our Schools as we UNITE AND PRAY for HIM to change our schools forever. You can start this at your school. Click on the Start Your Own tab and get going now! Click here.

Graduation 2007

ACLU relentless in bullying Florida school board over religious speech at graduations
Federal court in Duval County already ruled religious speech at graduations OK, ACLU decides to pressure school board anyway

Alliance Defense Fund, June 11, 2007

Jacksonville, Florida. - An attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund sent a letter Friday urging a Florida school board to resist an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to pressure the board into stifling student religious speech at graduation ceremonies. The ACLU is applying pressure even though a federal court already resolved the issue involving the Duval County School Board and upheld the free speech rights of student speakers at graduation ceremonies.

"Religious speech should not be treated as second-class, and a student's First Amendment rights don't end when commencement exercises begin," said ADF Litigation Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "A federal court affirmed the school board's graduation speech policy in 2001, which respects the First Amendment rights of students at graduation ceremonies. It's ridiculous that the ACLU continues to hound the school board, attempting to force them to adopt a policy that impermissibly restricts private student speech." Continue.

Florida Valedictorian Shares the Gospel at Graduation
Speech is applauded and criticized.

Focus on the Family, June 5, 2007

A high school senior in Jacksonville, Fla., is getting praise and grief for giving the Gospel in her valedictory address.

Shannon Spaulding, who topped her class of 383 students at Wolfson High School, spoke to about 6,000 people at her commencement ceremony late last month. For nearly 20 minutes, she quoted the Bible and shared about Jesus.

“I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can give you eternal life in Heaven,” she said in her valedictory -- to applause. Continue.

Religious right promotes prayer at graduations, 2006

Schools May Answer in Court for Censoring Students' Christian Messages

By Jim Brown, AgapePress, June 23, 2006

A Christian attorney says a Colorado high school was wrong to withhold a valedictorian's diploma because her commencement speech encouraged people to learn about Jesus Christ.

Erica Corder, an 18-year-old graduating senior at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, used her commencement speech to speak about the death and resurrection of Christ and to urge listeners to learn more about his sacrifice. After the valedictory address, however, school officials told Corder she would not receive her diploma until she wrote an e-mail to the school community's students and parents, apologizing for her comments. Continue

Nevada: Religious speech cut from graduation ceremony

By The Associated Press, First Amendment Center, June 19, 2006

LAS VEGAS — The Clark County School District and free-speech advocates are defending school officials' decision to cut short a high school valedictorian's commencement speech, saying the speech would have amounted to school-sponsored proselytizing.

Officials and a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union said on June 16 that administrators followed federal law when they cut the microphone on Foothill High School valedictorian Brittany McComb as she began deviating from a preapproved speech and reading from a version that mentioned God and contained biblical references. Continue

Attorney: School Could Face Suit for Censoring Christian Valedictory Speech

Jim Brown, Agape Press, June 21, 2006

A constitutional attorney is denouncing a Las Vegas school district for pulling the plug on a Christian student's commencement speech because it referred to her faith in Jesus Christ. At a recent graduation ceremony, Clark County School District (CCSD) officials cut the microphone on Foothill High School valedictorian Brittany McComb after she began reading a speech that contained Bible verses and references to God.

The district officials claim McComb's speech amounted to religious proselytizing and could have been perceived as school-sponsored, thus making it a violation of the so-called separation of church and state. But Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Florida-based pro-family legal organization Liberty Counsel, says the high school valedictorian has every right to take the school district to court over the incident. Continue

Tennessee: Munford ACLU adviser is fired

By Lela Garlington, Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), May 24, 2006

A nontenured Munford High teacher who was the faculty adviser for the newly formed ACLU campus chapter has lost her teaching job.

School officials gave her the news that they would not be renewing her contract on May 12. That's the same day a letter was faxed to the school by an attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. The letter requested that the school cancel all prayers during Monday night's graduation program.

After consulting with their local school board attorney and with the American Center for Law and Justice, the school did cancel all prayers, much to the dismay of many students and parents.

At Monday night's graduation, most of the 286 graduating seniors recited "The Lord's Prayer" during a time when Principal Darry Marshall had asked for a moment of silence and calm so everyone could "reflect on what makes this day so special." Continue

Kentucky: Prayer out at Shelby graduation
Principal yields to Muslim's plea

By Peter Smith, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), May 24, 2006

Shelby County High School will not schedule any formal prayers at its June 2 high school graduation because a student complained that such prayers violate the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion. Continue

Kentucky: Religious coercion

Editorial, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), May 23, 2006

"Imposing religious conformity is not what the Founders had in mind. Neither is turning a public school ceremony into a religious exercise." Click for the editorial

Graduates: We Will Not Be Silenced

by Jerry Falwell, Conservative Voice, May 26, 2006

I wish I could have been there to witness it myself. After Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. issued a restraining order barring Russell County (Ky.) High School and senior Megan Chapman from including prayer at the school’s graduation ceremony, students decided to take matters in their own hands. (Miss Chapman was elected by students last fall as the senior class chaplain.)

In an act of protest to the court order issued just hours before the graduation, about 200 seniors spontaneously stood and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, prompting a standing ovation from a standing-room only crowd at the ceremony. Continue

Minnesota School Agrees to Allow Students' Christian Song at Graduation

Allie Martin, Agape Press, June 8, 2006

A Minnesota public high school that had banned two of its students from singing a religious song at this year's graduation ceremonies reversed course and allowed the selection, but only after Florida-based Liberty Counsel intervened with the threat of legal action.

LaPorte High School students Aaron Reimer and Victoria Raddatz had been invited by a student-led committee to sing a song at commencement, and they had chosen "Treasure of Jesus," a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, as their selection. However, administrators at the school informed the two teens that they could not sing their duet because of the so-called separation of church and state.

Liberty Counsel, a pro-family litigation, education, and policy organization, contacted LaPorte High School and threatened to sue if the school did not allow the students' musical selection to be sung at graduation. The legal group also offered school officials free legal assistance should the district be sued over allowing the Christian song to be performed. Continue

Focusing on graduations

By Ron Brown, The New & Advance (Lynchburg, Virginia), May 5, 2006

The Rev. Jerry Falwell and Liberty Counsel say they are ready to challenge public school officials who disallow prayer and religious references during spring graduation services. Continue

School prayer in the news

ACLU of Tennessee Fights for Religious Freedom in Wilson County Public School

ACLU Press Release, November 27, 2006

NASHVILLE -- Acting on behalf of a Wilson County family, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today asked a federal court to end practices by teachers and other officials that put pressure on students to engage in religious activities at Lakeview Elementary School.

The ACLU said it is bringing the lawsuit after repeated attempts by the family to end the school-sponsored religious activities, which they believe interfere with their right to religious freedom. "It is unfortunate that we had to go to court to protect religious freedom but we had no other choice. We are pursuing this lawsuit so that Wilson County residents can decide for themselves whether or not they want to practice a particular religious faith," said ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

School administrators repeatedly disregarded the family’s requests and continued to promote and sponsor activities like "Prayer at the Flag Pole" and "Praying Parents," whose members enter classrooms and tell students that they have prayed for them. Rather than taking the family’s requests seriously, the school administrators encouraged the family to withdraw their child from the school. Continue

Tenn. school's 'Praying Parents' prompts lawsuit

By Melanie Bengtson, First Amendment Center Online intern, November 16, 2006

A group of parents that gathers regularly in the cafeteria of a Tennessee elementary school to pray for the institution and its students and faculty recently got an unexpected response to their petitions — a lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed the suit, alleging that officials at Lakeview Elementary School in Mt. Juliet violated the First Amendment by promoting the group, Praying Parents, as well as other religious-themed activities.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court on behalf of John and Jane Doe, parents of James Doe, who attended kindergarten at Lakeview during the 2005-2006 school year. The plaintiffs withdrew their son from Lakeview and are home-schooling him during the current school year, the lawsuit states, “[b]ecause of [school officials’] intent to continue unconstitutional actions and the Plaintiffs(’) fear that their child is being subject to religious proselytizing.” Continue.

Groups gather in prayer for See You at the Pole

By Jennifer Edwards, The Odessa American, (Odessa, Texas), September 28, 2006

Wednesday dawned cool and mostly clear -- good weather for praying outdoors.

Across the city, students at Odessa’s high schools, junior highs and some elementary schools gathered in the breeze and around their flagpoles for the annual national "See You at the Pole."

At Odessa High School, a crowd of about 40 people, mostly students, waited to be led in prayer. Among them were a member of the Showgirls dance team, a student on crutches and several ROTC members. Continue.

Vashti Cromwell McCollum, 93
Won Her Case Against Religion in Schools

By Jon Thurber, The Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2006

Vashti Cromwell McCollum, the Illinois housewife whose objection to her son's taking religious training in school led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the separation of church and state in public education, has died. She was 93. Continue.

U.S. Senator Proposes Voluntary Prayer Amendment

Christian Post, April 28, 2006

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd introduced a proposed constitutional amendment on Thursday to allow — but not require — voluntary prayer in public schools and extracurricular events. Continue  

Prayer: Arkansas

Court Upholds Ex-Teacher's Complaint About Prayers

WMAQ - TV, April 5, 2006

DE VALLS BLUFF, Ark. -- A federal appeals court has sided with a former teacher who complained about prayers at a graduation ceremony in an Arkansas school district.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Steve Warnock in his dispute with the De Valls School District but didn't grant his request to stiffen penalties against the district. Warnock had complained that a 2004 baccalaureate ceremony violated lower court injunctions by including invocations by ministers.

The appeals court agreed, rejecting arguments that the ceremony was a student-organized event. The court said evidence showed that school employees were involved in the service's preparation.

Warnock won an earlier lawsuit accusing the school district of discriminating against him because he was a non-Christian teacher.

Prayer: Colorado

Religion rights bill proposed for schools

By Alan Gathright, Rocky Mountain News, January 27, 2007 via Faith in Public Life

A Colorado Springs lawmaker has proposed a "Public Schools Religious Bill of Rights" to combat what he calls mounting, nationwide violations of students' and school staffs' constitutionally protected religious freedom.

Sen. Dave Schultheis said the purpose of his bill is to raise awareness "of the religious liberties bestowed by the Creator and guaranteed to students, faculty and staff, in accordance with the 1st Amendment to the Constitution."

He added: "I believe that this thing is going to be a huge bill nationwide."

But other lawmakers said the bill doesn't have a prayer.

"Schultheis' thing has no chance," said Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, who said parts of the bill of rights sound like previous laws that courts have struck down for violating the separation of church and state doctrine. Continue.

Illinois Moment of Silence

Mandatory silence sends loud message

Eric Zorn, The Chicago Tribune, March 27, 2007

Well, I, for one, am not going to be silent about the bill that passed the Illinois Senate last week that requires public school students to start each day with a moment of silence:

I'll say it loud: The proposal is rotten -- sneaky, unnecessary and intrusive.

Democratic senators who unanimously supported the bill should be ashamed of themselves for advancing the pet Trojan horse of the religious right, which has promoted moment-of-silence requirements nationwide as a way to encourage students to pray without offending the Constitution. Continue.

Fighting over a moment of silence: much ado about nothing
Inside the First Amendment

Charles C. Haynes, Commentary, First Amendment Center, November 25, 2007

The latest round in America’s long-running fight over “school prayer” has nothing to do with vocal prayer. As odd as it sounds, it’s argument over silence.

Two recent lawsuits filed by parents in Texas and Illinois charge that mandating a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against state-sponsored religious practices in public schools.

Last week a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction barring an Illinois school district from implementing the state’s "moment of silence" law passed in October by the Legislature over the veto of the governor. A Texas judge heard arguments against that state’s law in August, but has yet to make a ruling. Continue.

Illinois 'Moment of Silence' - Putting Public School Prayer Back in Place
What Students, Parents and Teachers can learn from the Illinois "Moment of Silence" Law

Christian Newswire, October 30, 2007

The Illinois House of Representatives recently passed a law requiring public schools to observe a brief period of time "for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day." Andy Norman of Mauck & Baker law firm in Chicago is a Christian Legal Society member who concentrates his practice in issues of religious freedom. As other states look into passing similar measures, Norman has put together a list of things that every student, parent and teacher needs to know about his or her rights and how the "moment of silence" law might affect them. Continue.

Judge won't block 'moment of silence'

Jeff Coen, The Chicago Tribune, October 29, 2007

A federal judge on Monday declined to block a suburban school district from having a moment of silence as newly mandated by Illinois law but indicated a willingness to weigh the merits of the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said he has "some serious questions" about the statute that requires schools to pause at the start of classes each day.

"Let there be no mistake about that," said the judge, expressing concern with the act's title and possible abuses. Continue.

Prayer: Louisiana

Tangipahoa board OKs prayer policy

David J. Mitchell, Advocate.com, August 22, 2007

Amite — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board approved a policy Tuesday night that would allow clergy in only “established” religious congregations in the parish to lead prayers opening School Board meetings.

The six-page policy calls for the board secretary to establish a database of those congregations from annual yellow pages listings, the Internet and consultation with local chambers of commerce.

The policy is an attempt by the board to open up to a wide variety of clergy the opportunity to volunteer to deliver invocations on a rotating basis to the School Board. Continue.

Tangipahoa schools catch more legal flak
New suit over religion sets record, ACLU says

Jenny Hurwitz, The Times-Picayune, June 7, 2007

For the second time in as many months, a parent has launched a federal lawsuit against the Tangipahoa School Board over religion, this time objecting to a teacher-led prayer delivered at a recent high school graduation ceremony.

The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans. It marks the sixth court case in 13 years by the American Civil Liberties Union against the same school district involving matters of religion, according to Joe Cook, executive director of Louisiana's branch of the ACLU.

"It's certainly a state record," Cook said. "I'm not aware of any school district that's been sued this many times for religious freedom." Continue.

Louisiana school district sued over Bibles in school

Associated Press, CNN, May 18, 2007

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed its fifth religion-related lawsuit in 13 years against an eastern Louisiana school district, this time alleging that a principal improperly allowed people to distribute Bibles to students.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of the parents of a fifth-grader at Loranger Middle School in Tangipahoa Parish, who were upset that Gideons Bibles were being given to students on school property during class hours.

"School officials in Tangipahoa Parish habitually show disdain for the Constitution, while disrespecting the right of parents, who happen to be Catholic in this case, to choose the religious tradition in which to raise their children," said Joe Cook, the ACLU executive director for Louisiana. Continue.

Tangi school board: It never said no to non-Christian prayers

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), March 13, 2007

Amite, La. (AP) -- It isn't what is said but why it is said that matters most when a school board meeting opens with a prayer, attorneys for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board argue.

As a legislative body, the board should be able to open with prayer, just as the U.S. Congress and Louisiana Legislature do, said briefs filed Monday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They say the American Civil Liberties Union's unidentified plaintiffs never offered any evidence that the board used the prayers to proselytize or that the board ever denied anyone of another religion a chance to offer a non-Christian prayer.

The full 5th Circuit has agreed to reconsider a ruling that the board's Christian prayer was unconstitutional but that prayers that do not advocate a particular religious point of view -- like those at legislatures and Congress -- might be legal at school board meetings. Continue.

ACLU: Deal reached in student teacher's suit over school prayer

By The Associated Press, First Amendment Center, October 4, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — The American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday that it had reached a settlement with Southeastern Louisiana University and the Tangipahoa Parish School Board over a lawsuit filed by a student teacher who said she was punished for speaking out against classroom devotionals.

Cynthia Thompson filed suit in May 2005 against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, a teacher and officials at SLU, saying she entered a "nightmare" of constant prayer and proselytizing in a fourth-grade class. Continue.

School Board prayers argued in 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

By Debra Lenoine, The Advocate, WBRZ Television (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), February, 9, 2006

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board defended its prayers as okay if not intended to convert the audience. The board's laywers also argued that school boards are not government by the non-establishment clause since they did not exist when the Constitution was drafted. The American Civil Liberties Union argued that no opening prayer is permissible because school boards should not be included in a Supreme Court ruling that state legislatures and other “deliberative bodies” may open their meetings with a prayer. Click here to read the report.

Missouri Legislature moves to amend Constitution for school prayer

Missouri House approves school prayer constitutional amendment

Chris Blank, Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 5, 2007

Jefferson City, Mo. (AP) -- The House today endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to pray privately in public schools.

House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden said his measure is needed because the boundaries between what is allowed and what is not have been blurred by confusion and some outright attempts to prevent religious displays.

"School attorneys will go to the tightest possible interpretation, and once they set that standard for the atmosphere, that's what bleeds out," said Bearden, R-St. Charles. Continue.

House OKs school prayer amendment

Columbia Daily Tribune, April 6, 2006

The Missouri House overwhelmingly voted to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot ensuring that students can pray privately and voluntarily at public schools. Republicans brushed off charges that students already have that right and this is just a get-out-the-vote ploy, insisting that religion is under attack. The proposal now goes to the Senate. Click here to read the report.

Missouri House Passes Proposed Constitutional Amendment On School Prayer

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause, April 06, 2006

Today the Missouri House of Representatives passed and sent on to the Senate HJR 39, that would ask the voters to amend the Missouri Constitution's bill of rights to protect school prayer. If passed by the Senate, the proposed amendment will then go to a vote of the people. .Click here to continue reading this posting, which contains the language of the proposed amendment.

(2006)Missouri legislative resolutions favor religion in schools

Missouri's state legislature considers two resolutions: one endorses a Christian god and school prayer; the other calls for lessons on "Judeo Christian" heritage. (Go to links in church-state separation section)

Prayer: New Jersey

New Jersey coach can't kneel, bow head as team prays, 3rd Circuit says

Associated Press, The First Amendment Center April 16, 2008

A New Jersey school board was within its rights to tell a football coach he cannot kneel and bow his head as members of his team have a student-led pre-game prayer, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

The ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed a lower-court ruling made almost two years ago.

Each member of the three-judge panel wrote a separate opinion on the issue, which pits the right to free speech against the freedom from official establishment of a religion. Continue.

New Jersey High School Football Coach Has No Right To Encourage Student Prayers, Federal Appeals Court Says

News Release, American United for the Separation of Church and State via CommonDreams.com, April 15, 2008

Washington, DC - Americans United for Separation of Church and State praised today’s federal appeals court ruling that a New Jersey high school football coach does not have a constitutional right to engage in religious activities with students.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected a legal challenge filed by Coach Marcus Borden of East Brunswick High School. Borden said he wanted to bow his head and “take a knee” with players before football games while allegedly voluntary prayers were recited by students.

The court, noting Borden’s 23-year history of organizing and leading prayers with players, said his actions, would be construed by a neutral observer as promoting religion. Continue.

Court upholds ban on faculty prayer

JTA, April 15, 2008

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. Continue.

Coach in New Jersey Cannot Pray With Players

Tina Kelley, The New York Times, April 16, 2008

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the public school district in East Brunswick, N.J., was not violating the constitutional rights of a football coach when it prohibited staff members from participating in student prayers.

Marcus Borden, who has been the head football coach at East Brunswick High School since 1983, sued the district in 2005, saying its policy violated his rights to free speech and due process, as well as to academic freedom and freedom of association. Continue.

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against High School Football Coach’s Right to Bow Head, Bend Knee During Team’s Pre-Game Prayer

Nisha N. Mohammed, The Rutherford Institute, April 16, 2008

Philadelphia, Penn. - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that a football coach may not silently bow his head or "take a knee" with his team as gestures of respect for student-led prayers prior to a game. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute are acting as co-counsel for Coach Marcus Borden, who plans to appeal the ruling.

"If this ruling is allowed to stand, it will mean that high school teachers across the United States will have no free speech or academic freedom rights at all," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. "This undermines a time-honored tradition that has less to do with religion than it does athletic tradition. It's a sad statement on our rights as Americans that schools are no longer bastions of freedom."

The case arose in October 2005 after officials at East Brunswick High School adopted a policy prohibiting representatives of the school district from participating in student-initiated prayer, which has been a regular part of the high school football team's pre-game activities for over 25 years. However, school officials justified their actions by insisting that while student athletes have the constitutionally protected right to pray, that privilege does not extend to coaches, who are public employees and whose participation would violate the "separation of church and state." Continue.

Federal Appeals Court To Hear Arguments In Key Case Challenging Coach Involvement In School Prayer

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and state, October 1, 2007

N.J. Case Will Be Argued Wednesday, Oct. 3, At Federal Courthouse In Philadelphia

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will hear oral arguments on Wednesday, Oct. 3, in an important case challenging a public school football coach’s involvement in prayer with his team.

At issue before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Borden v. School District of the Township of East Brunswick is whether New Jersey high school football coach Marcus Borden has the right to encourage or promote prayer among members of his team. Continue.

AJC Files Brief Defending Church-State Separation in Public Schools

News release, American Jewish Committee, December 22, 2006

December 22, 2006 - New York - The American Jewish Committee today filed an amicus brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Borden v. East Brunswick School District, which asks whether a public school district is permitted to prohibit a high school football coach from praying with students. The coach has argued that he should be able to "take a knee" and bow his head with his players before each game.

AJC's brief argues that the school district was correct to put a stop to Borden's conduct so as to avoid violating the Constitution and that in doing so did not violate his rights. Moreover, the brief points out that the impact of this case goes well beyond simply a legal determination of whether the proposed conduct would constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause. Continue.

An issue of fair pray
Disagreement sends coach, school to court

By Stan Grossfeld, The Boston Globe, November 7, 2006

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- This is not the typical place for a jihad.

This is not the Middle East; it's East Brunswick, a nice town midway between the stinking refineries of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Jersey Shore.

It's an unusual battleground for the holy war being waged between an intense high school football coach, who sued and won the right to bow his head and take a knee during student-initiated pregame prayers, and the local school district, which told the coach he could not lead his team in prayer or even participate with the players. Continue.

Board of Education Files Appeal
Borden v. East Brunswick School District

News release, East Brunswick School District, August 24, 2006

The East Brunswick Board of Education will appeal the U.S. District Court’s decision in the case of Borden v. East Brunswick School District to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Board, which sought the advice of outside counsel to aid them in making a decision, was advised that, “the district court failed to recognize both the right and duty of the school district to regulate the conduct of its employees; and it similarly failed to respect the rights of public school students to be free from religious coercion and messages of school endorsement for religion.”

The July 25, 2006 decision, which allows Coach Borden to participate in team prayer, does not put the rights of the students first, nor does it protect the constitutional rights of every one of the nearly 9,200 students in East Brunswick’s very diverse population. Continue.

Free counsel offer in team-prayer appeal

By Greg Tufaro, The Home New Tribune (East Brunswick, New Jersey), August 25, 2006

The East Brunswick Board of Education is appealing a federal court ruling that allows varsity football coach Marcus Borden to participate in team prayer in order to protect the constitutional rights of students and eliminate pending legal fees.

The board is considering accepting a pro bono offer from outside counsel to appeal U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh's July 25 decision. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonsectarian, nonpartisan watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., may be coming to the board's aid. Continue.

Judge rules in favor of coach in prayer case

Background by JewsOnFirst.org, August 1, 2006

The Rutherford Institute was gleeful and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State strongly criticized a federal judge's ruling allowing a New Jersey high school football coach with a history of promoting school prayer to join his students' pre-game prayers. On July 25th, District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh handed East Brunswick high school football coach Marcus Borden -- and his religious right backers -- a total victory in the lawsuit he filed challenging the school district's policy that bars its employees from appearing to endorse religion.

The thrust of Judge Cavanaugh's ruling was to let Borden participate in "student-led" prayer. But Robert Boston, assistant director of communications for Americans United, told JewsOnFirst there were reports last year that Coach Borden was actively praying with the students. "Clearly he had an agenda and wanted to influence the students," said Boston.

The local newspaper quoted the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, saying the ruling "misconstrues existing law and it fails to recognize the long tainted history of this coach's effort to promote prayer in public school." Added Lynn: "if participating in prayer, getting on your knee when a Christian prayer is being prayed, is not endorsement of the prayer, then I don't know what could possibly be an endorsement of the prayer short of (saying) 'Hallelujah.'"

The Rutherford Institute, a religious right legal group which filed an amicus brief in the case supporting Borden, flung an exultant banner (above) across its home page and predicted the case would have national "implications." Neither the East Brunswick School District nor its lawyer returned calls asking if there were plans to appeal.

East Brunswick's Borden OK'd for "taking a knee"
Coach had a prayer

By Greg Tufaro, The Home News Tribune (Central New Jersey), July 26, 2006

NEWARK - In a court ruling with national implications, East Brunswick High School football coach Marcus Borden won his lawsuit against the school district yesterday, and will now be permitted to participate in team prayer.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh upheld every element of Borden's complaint in federal district court, stating the school district violated the coach's constitutional rights by prohibiting him from silently bowing his head and "taking a knee" with East Brunswick players while they engaged in student-initiated, student-led, nonsectarian pregame prayers. Continue

Coach Is Allowed to Pray With Team

By Bill Finley, The New York Times, July 27, 2006

A New Jersey high school football coach has won his legal fight to take part in pregame prayer with his players.

Judge Dennis Cavanaugh of the United States District Court for New Jersey ruled Tuesday that Marcus Borden, the coach at East Brunswick High School, can bow his head and bend down on one knee during student-led prayers. Last fall, he had been barred from doing so by the East Brunswick Board of Education, which contended that Borden's actions were illegal because he is a public employee. Continue

Federal Court Rules in Favor of High School Football Coach's Right to Bow Head, Bend Knee During Team's Pre-Game Prayer
Rutherford Institute Commends Court for Affirming Coach’s Right to Participate in Team Prayers

News release, Rutherford Institute, July 26, 2006

NEWARK, N.J. – A federal judge has ruled in favor of East Brunswick High School football coach Marcus Borden’s First Amendment right to silently bow his head and/or “take a knee” while his players say their pre-game prayer. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute had filed a friend of the court brief in support of Borden’s right to demonstrate his respect during team prayers. Continue

Coach Borden Wins One for America

John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute, July 31, 2006

In a ruling that has national implications for every athletic department in the country, a federal judge has declared that a coach has the right to take part in the age-old practice of “taking a knee.”

On July 25, 2006, U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh ruled that officials at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J., may not prohibit their head football coach Marcus Borden from exercising his First Amendment right to respectfully participate in his players’ voluntary, student-led prayers by silently bowing his head and taking a knee as the prayers are said. Continue

Court Says NJ Coach Can Kneel in Prayer With His Players

By Jim Brown, AgapePress, July 27, 2006

A federal judge has sided with a Christian high school football coach in New Jersey who was barred from taking part in his team's pre-game prayers. The school had prohibited Coach Marcus Borden from bowing his head and "taking a knee" with his players while they engaged in student-initiated, student-led prayers before facing their opponents on the field.

U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh upheld the entire complaint filed by Borden against East Brunswick High School, declaring the school district violated the coach's constitutional rights to free speech, academic freedom, and freedom of association. The judge also found that "taking a knee" is not the same as praying. Continue

Coach's case up for hearing

By Greg Tufaro, Home News Tribune (Central New Jersey), July 4, 2006

EAST BRUNSWICK - Independence Day holds special meaning for East Brunswick High School football coach Marcus Borden, whose lawsuit against the school district is scheduled to be heard later this month.

"One of the founding principles of our country is a person's freedom and individual liberty," said Borden's attorney, Ronald J. Riccio. "This case is about Coach Borden getting back the freedom and liberty that was denied to him last year so that he can show his respect in deference for his players when they exercise their freedom to say pregame prayers." Continue

Prayer: Ohio

Ohio School Cans Lord's Prayer -- but 'Caving In' Not the Answer, Says Staver

By Jim Brown, Agape Press, February 10, 2006

Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel, which "defends the religious freedom rights of Christian students" is quoted saying that the school should not have discontinued daily prayers over the PA system, but, instead have contacted his legal group. Click here for the article.

Prayer: Texas

Court Upholds Texas Moment of Silence

Associated Press via BeliefNet, January 4, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas schoolchildren will continue to pray or meditate during a daily minute of silence after a federal court threw out a challenge to the state law.

The ruling issued Thursday stems from a complaint by a North Texas couple who say one of their children was told by an elementary school teacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer." Continue.

Round Rock district is sued over student prayer
Washington-based group says having students vote on praying at graduation is unconstitutional.

Bob Banta, Austin American-Statesman, August 22, 2007

Round Rock — A Washington-based group has sued the Round Rock school district, saying its practice of allowing students to vote on having prayers at graduation ceremonies is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Austin late Monday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of six parents and a former student in the district. The plaintiffs, some of whom describe themselves as atheists, argue that the district violated the First Amendment when it allowed students at four high schools to vote on whether to have a commencement prayer.

Americans United spokesman Jeremy Learning said the parents and former student have asked to remain anonymous because "they are concerned about hostile reactions to the lawsuit." Continue.

Religious students' rights clarified in bill: Controversial legislation addresses will cause more or fewer lawsuits, depending on whom you ask.

By Eileen E. Flynn, The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, June 04, 2007

God and Jesus have bedeviled public school districts over the years. Should the valedictorian be able to praise the Lord at graduation? Can students quote the Bible in a history paper? Is prayer ever acceptable in the classroom? The confusion has led to lawsuits and complaints -- and to a bill passed by lawmakers last week that some promise will clarify religion's place in public schools and that others worry will only muddy the waters more.The Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, lays out students' rights to express their faith and offers a model for schools to create "limited public forums" at events such as graduations in which students may invoke religion.

The Legislature sent the bill to Gov. Rick Perry, who has publicly supported it, before the legislative session's close last week. Kelly Coghlan, a Houston lawyer who spent years researching the issue and who helped draft the bill's language, said the measure will prevent discrimination and lawsuits. Continue.

Governor supports bill specifying free religious expression

Kelley Shannon, Associated Press, The Houston Chronicle, April 10, 2007

Austin -- Gov. Rick Perry joined some fellow Capitol Republicans and social conservatives Tuesday to urge passage of legislation he says will clarify for Texas schools that they may allow religious freedom on campus.

A bill by Rep. Charlie Howard, a Sugar Land Republican, will be considered in a legislative committee this week. The measure will help schools feel comfortable in allowing religious speech permitted under the First Amendment without the worry that they will be sued, Howard said.

"The waters have become very muddy," he said. Continue.

Rep. Charlie Howard Files School Children's Religious Liberty Bill

News Release, Rep. Charlie Howard, March 13, 2007

(Austin) – In response to the growing confusion about religious expression in Texas public schools, Rep. Charlie Howard of Fort Bend Friday introduced a bill that outlines the extensive liberties students are guaranteed and the protection school officials receive when recognizing these liberties. The bill lays to rest many myths that have led to the unconstitutional suppression of individual speech in Texas schools.

The Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act (HB3678)(http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB3678) codifies the many constitutional ways a student, or groups of students, may express their faith at school and at school-sponsored events. HB3678 also outlines what activities would land a school in constitutional hot water.

“This bill leaves no doubt that individual religious expression is permissible in schools in a wide range of contexts,” said Rep. Howard. “It is a win-win for students and school officials alike, both of whom are now uncertain how to navigate what has become muddied, constitutional waters.”

HB3678 makes clear that unconstitutional censorship of students’ individual religious expression will not be allowed in Texas public schools. The bill also offers clarity for teachers and administrators who have been confused about what religious expression is permitted in schools. Continue.

As Texas State Officials Push Religious Legislation, Small Texas City Launches Push for Prayer in Schools

"I don't think church and state need to be separated," Brazoria's mayor tells JewsOnFirst.org.

by JewsOnFirst.org, April 17, 2007

Amid a surge efforts by elected officials in Texas to legislate religious (read fundamentalist Christian) measures, the small city of Brazoria is organizing Texas cities to reinstitute prayer in the schools.

"I don't think church and state need to be separated," the mayor of Brazoria told us in an interview about that Texas city's campaign to reinstitute prayer in public schools. He said he hopes that school prayer will reverse a slide in morals by bringing religion to children whose parents aren't involved with a church.

Our report also includes an update on last week's report on Texas state legislation that would mandate a Bible studies elective in public schools and notes two more Texas bills that hack away at church-state separation. Please click here.

Brazoria City Council backs prayer in schools

Eric Hanson, The Houston Chronicle, April 14, 2007

The Brazoria City Council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution calling for prayer to be a part of public schools and urging other Texas cities to pass similar measures.

"I feel the need (for prayer) is greater now than ever before. It is something I want to be involved in," Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley said Friday. "My goal is to just bring God back into the lives of these kids through our school system." Continue. .

Town votes to bring prayer back to schools

By Rucks Russell, 11 News (KHOU-TV, Houston), April 12, 2007

Brazoria is bending no more when it comes to prayer in schools. The city council adopted a resolution the week that asks for public schools to reinstate prayer in the classroom.

“I want prayer in all the schools throughout the United States of America,” said Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley. “I think there is a greater majority of people who want prayer in our schools.” Continued on the 11 News website, where you can also, at the moment, find a link to the video report.

Brazoria pushing school prayer

Desiree Evans, The Facts (Brazoria County, Texas), April 13, 2007

Brazoria -- The city already made national headlines this year by trying to stop people from saying an offensive word. Now, instead of trying to outlaw a word, city officials want "the word" spread through public schools.

City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging organized prayer be reinstated in public schools and is hoping other governments statewide follow Brazoria’s lead.

"With all of the problems kids face today in society, it is very important that God be brought back into our school systems," Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley said Thursday. Continue.

Prayer: Wisconsin

Policy allows dorms RA's Bible study

by George Hesselberg, Wisconsin State Journal, March 1, 2006

Faced with a lawsuit by the religious right legal firm Alliance Defense Fund, the University of Wisconsin System reversed the policy under litigation and said residence assistants may lead prayer groups. The assistants get free housing in exchange for dorm supervision and are regarded as state employees. The policy has this proviso: "[The assistants] may not use their positions to inappropriately influence, pressure, or coerce student residents to attend or participate." Click here for the report.

Evangelicals targeting public institutions' sports programs

Increasingly, Football's Playbooks Call for Prayer

by Joe Drape, New York Times, October 30, 2005

"As in politics and culture in the United States, college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel. In the past year more than 2,000 college football coaches participated in events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which said that more than 1.4 million athletes and coaches from youth to professional levels had attended in 2005, up from 500,000 in 1990." Click here to read the report.

God in the game
Worship before competition routine for some teams

By Diamond Leung, Press-Enterprise, January 19, 2006

"Moments before the opening whistle, Karissa Aguirre and the rest of the Canyon Springs High School girls soccer team bow their heads, close their eyes and pray to 'Father.'" Click here to read the report.

Related News Reports

These news headlines are a live feed from Yahoo or Google. We can't control the selection and apologize if any offend you.


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Pickens school board takes no action on prayer - WACH
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Publ.Date : Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:11:52 -0700

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Publ.Date : Fri, 31 Oct 2014 03:34:02 -0700

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