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School board granted full circuit court hearing on graduation prayers


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Quick action by a federal appeals court has made it possible for Jacksonville, Fla., public high school graduating classes to include prayer in their commencement ceremonies if they so choose.
The full 12-member 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside a May 11 ruling of a three-member panel from the court, which declared the practice of allowing uncensored student “messages” at graduation an unconstitutional attempt to permit “sectarian and proselytizing prayer.”
The 11th Circuit judges granted the Duval County School Board a hearing before the full court, but did not set a specific date, and in the meantime reinstated a 1998 ruling by U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges permitting the graduation “messages” to continue. Graduation ceremonies were scheduled during the week of June 7.
A hearing by the full court following a panel decision is rarely granted, Stephen Durden, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, told the Florida Times-Union.
Ken Dyal, pastor of First Baptist Church of Argyle, told the Florida Baptist Witness newsjournal, “There are two things that I am very thankful for: the number of young people who have taken a stand for this just cause and the leadership of the Duval County School Board that is willing to take a stand at a price.
“This may not be the end, but it is certainly a good beginning,” he said.