The Utah State Office of Education called Tuesday for all parties involved in the school-prayer cases to suspend legal action until a Rhode Island case is resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Resolution of the Rhode Island case could supersede any decisions rendered in the graduation prayer cases currently before Utah courts," said a statement issued Tuesday shortly before noon.The call followed the decision Monday night by the Providence, R.I., School District to appeal the July 23 ruling of the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision upheld a decision by a Rhode Island federal court invalidating prayer at public school commencement and graduation ceremonies. The case stemmed from a prayer given by a clergyman at a middle school commencement.
Joe Tesch, chief deputy attorney general for Utah, told the Deseret News that he believes Utah will financially support the Rhode Island case, and the money will probably come from Utah State Board of Education coffers.
Utah is going to file a friend of the court brief in the Rhode Island case within the next 60 days urging the high court to hear the case, he said.
The school-office statement said if the top court settles the prayer issue in the Rhode Island case, Utah can avoid a costly, divisive legal battle.
Gov. Norm Bangerter agreed. He said, "We would encourage our people to see if they can piggy back, if you will, on the Rhode Island case so we can get our issues heard without spending a lot of money."