Former West High choir student Rachel Bauchman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review dismissal of her civil rights lawsuit, which claims her choir teacher had promoted the LDS religion in class.
Bauchman's petition contends the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals imposed impossibly strict standards of proof, requiring an admission that the challenged conduct was intended to endorse religion.The petition, filed last week, asks the court to review whether such a claim may be based on circumstantial and historical evidence that the conduct was intended to promote religion.
"The issues here are so important, and there's a such a clear disagreement as to the 10th Circuit and other circuits that have ruled in these matters that it's an ideal case for the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve," said Bauchman's attorney Ross Anderson.
The petition also asks the court to determine whether the trial court erred in not allowing a detailed amended complaint to be filed.
In spring 1995, Bauchman filed a federal lawsuit against West music teacher Richard Torgerson and Salt Lake City School District. Bauchman, who is Jewish, claimed Torgerson's selection of Christian songs promoted the Christian faith.
But the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last December ruled 2-1 that the choir's performance of such songs even in religious venues doesn't necessarily promote or endorse religion. The judges also said a reasonable observer would conclude that such performances are religiously neutral, educational choices.
Dissenting Judge Michael Murphy wrote that the Establishment Clause, which governs religious freedom and expression, prohibits public school teachers from using their positions to endorse or disapprove of religion.
Bauchman finished high school at a private school and attends an out-of-state college.