U.S. District Judge Thomas H. Greene ruled Monday that he would hear arguments on a preliminary injunction prohibiting graduation prayers in Alpine and Granite Districts during an all-day hearing May 15.
Attorneys for Granite and Alpine school districts told Greene Monday that a preliminary injunction prohibiting graduation prayer in their districts may not be necessary because schools in those districts had not yet decided to include prayer in this year's ceremonies.The attorneys' attempt to forestall the requested injunction failed. Greene made it clear he would listen to the American Civil Liberty Union's request that he prohibit graduation prayer in Granite and Alpine districts this year.
"I have told you that I'm going to hear a motion for a preliminary injunction. I am absolutely going to hear that," Greene told Brinton Burbidge, attorney for Alpine School District.
Realizing that the motion for a preliminary injunction is inevitable, the school districts agreed to let the ACLU amend its complaint to include students graduating this year. The amendment was critical for arguing for a preliminary injunction because the original complaint, filed last summer, names students who graduated last year as plaintiffs.
The ACLU promised Greene that it would file that motion by April 17. The districts said they would file their response by May 8.
Attorneys representing the school districts argued that high school students attending this year's graduations would not be harmed by prayer at ceremonies because their presence was not required. ACLU must prove irreparable harm to those attending graduation in order to get a preliminary injunction prohibiting prayer.
But Burbidge believed that students can only be harmed if they are forced to attend the ceremonies.
"Graduation is optional. The students don't have to be there. They will receive their certificate anyway," said Burbidge.
He likened attendance at graduation ceremonies to optional attendance at a city council meeting or legislative session where prayer may be legally spoken.
However, Greene threw a contrary court ruling back at Burbidge when the judge said "Does someone who is not a utility rate payer or have anything to do with the lighting of a temple have a legal standing to say `I don't like it'?"