The Salt Lake City School District breathed a sigh of relief Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court ended three years of court battles by refusing to hear an appeal by former West High choir student Rachel Bauchman.
"We feel like it has confirmed that our policy in the schools is neutral, that our students are entitled to express their own religious views without adverse consequences, that our faculty remains neutral and that we prohibit any endorsement or discrimination of any religion," said Karen Derrick, president of the Salt Lake City Board of Education.Yet Bauchman's attorneys do not feel defeated, as the case incited diversity and sensitivity awareness.
"We feel we have accomplished what we set out to do and that was to increase consciousness about the value of diversity and being more sensitive to the interests of those who have beliefs and lifestyles different than the majority of this community," said Bauchman attorney Ross Anderson. "This case was anything but anti-religion or anti-LDS."
In spring 1995, Bauchman filed a federal lawsuit against West music teacher Richard Torgerson and the district. Bauchman, who is Jewish, claimed Torgerson's selection of Christian songs promoted his Mormon 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.
Bauchman petitioned the Supreme Court, claiming the appeals court imposed impossibly strict standards of proof, requiring an admission that the challenged conduct was intended to endorse religion.
The Supreme Court turned away Bauchman's appeal without comment.
Bauchman finished high school at a private school and attends college out-of-state.