Personal Injury

Debating Church-State Relations and Related Free-Speech Issues

Take Action!— Santa Fe: A School Prayer or Free-Speech Case?

As you think about the Santa Fe case, consider the following questions.

  1. If you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision, what school-district policies do you think the Santa Fe School District should consider next?
  2. If you were a Santa Fe student who wished to participate in religious activities on campus, could you find a way to do so and still be in compliance with all five rules listed in this article? Why or why not?
  3. Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJ Res 1) proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States related to voluntary school prayer (learn about the proposal by searching for it at Follow the news to determine which groups support and which groups oppose the amendment and why. What is your opinion about this proposed amendment?
  4. See whether you can get a debate going about school prayer in your community group or classroom by downloading the student forum presented in the First Amendment Freedoms edition of Update on Law-Related Education 22.1 (Fall 1998): 52. Give a copy to your group leader or teacher for consideration as a group activity.

About the Author

Bernard James is professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., where he teaches courses in federalism, individual rights, First Amendment, education law, and state constitutional law. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan and joined the Pepperdine faculty in 1984 after having served in Michigan as a judicial clerk for the Hon. Judge Myron Wahls for the Court of Appeals. James is the First Amendment contributing editor to the ABA’s
Preview of U.S. Supreme Court Cases , and he also writes for the National Law Journal, lectures in the United States and Canada on legal issues, and serves as a constitutional law commentator for national and local media including the C-SPAN and PBS networks and the Los Angeles talk-radio stations KABC, KCBS, and KGIL. James serves as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice, where he recently published Sharing Information: A Guide to FERPA and Participation in Juvenile Justice Programs. He is special counsel to the National School Safety Center, a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and Pepperdine University. He is past California chair of the National Organization of Legal Problems in Education (NOLPE) and currently serves on the faculty of the National Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Louisville. James can be reached at; (310) 456-4689.

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