Please read the following fact-pattern and answer the questions below.
On a beautiful, crisp fall day in northern Georgia, the North Hall High School football team was preparing for their homecoming game against a rival school, Gainesville High School. Tension was in the air. The players were anxious about the game. It has been years since they beat Gainesville High and they were sure this was going to be the year! Gainesville, Georgia is a small town in northern Georgia, at the foot hills of the Appalachian Mountains. The majority of the citizens of Gainesville are Protestant Christian. Consequently, the vast majority, if not all, of the members of the varsity football team, coaches and players alike, were also Christian. As the team huddled before kick-off, Sam Jones, the captain of the team, gave his fellow players a “pep-talk” to motivate them to play their best. He ended the talk with “Almighty God, we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.” The players and coaches let out a resounding, “Amen!” and the team went on to beat their rivals. Homecoming that year was the event of a lifetime for Sam and his fellow players!
Three months later, the Gainesville School District was sued in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by a small group of public school families who complained that Sam’s prayer before the homecoming game contradicted their religious beliefs. The group argued that the team prayer violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Superintendent of the school district called Sam, the head coach, and the high school principal, into a meeting once she was made aware of this law suit. Sam explained to the group that he was in no way intending to pray with the team as he had been told he could not do so. He also said that he did not ask his teammates or imply to them that they should respond with Amen. Sam figured that they did it because it seemed natural to them. He told the superintendent that he was very sorry and this put a black cloud over what was one of the best experiences of his young life. As far as Sam knew, every single one of his teammates were Christian so he could not understand who this would have offended and why the school district was being sued.
As it turned out, Sam was right. Each and every last member of that football team was a devout Christian. The pep-talk was overheard by some parents as they were finding their way into the bleachers. These parents, two separate families, were new to the Gainesville community and had moved down from New Jersey that summer. They were Muslims and suing out of fear of not being accepted into the community. One family had a son who was the star quarter back from his middle school in New Jersey. He had hopes of playing for North Hall High School.
Choose to represent either party, the School District or the families.
If you represent the School District, what arguments, case law, will you use to show that they did not violate the First Amendment, Establishment Clause?
If you represent the families that sued the School District. What arguments, case law, will you use to show that the School District violated the First Amendment, Establishment Clause?
Please note that your answers have nothing to do with your personal feelings, thoughts or experiences with these issues. Your answers are based purely on the law, specifically precedent set by case law. Reviewing the week 3 lesson will be very helpful to you in finding relevant case law.
After you have answered these questions respond to at least 3 student’s postings. Respond to students who have offered a different perspective or opinion than yours. Be sure to ask thought-provoking questions of your classmates to further and deepen the discussion.