LEE v. WEISMAN

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
90-1014
Petitioner 
Lee
Respondent 
Weisman
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioners)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In keeping with the practice of several other public middle and high school principals in Providence, Rhode Island, Robert E. Lee, a middle school principal, invited a rabbi to speak at his school's graduation ceremony. Daniel Weisman's daughter, Deborah, was among the graduates. Hoping to stop the rabbi from speaking at his daughter's graduation, Weisman sought a temporary restaining order in District Court - but was denied. After the ceremony, where prayers were recited, Weisman filed for a permanent injunction barring Lee and other Providence public school officials from inviting clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at their schools' ceremonies. When the Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court ruling against the schools, Lee appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.

Question 

Does the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Weisman, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Establishment of Religion

Yes. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that government involvement in this case creates "a state-sponsored and state-directed religious exercise in a public school." Such conduct conflicts with settled rules proscribing prayer for students. The school's rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion. The cornerstone principle of the Establishment Clause is that government may not compose official prayers to recite as part of a religious program carried on by government.

Cite this Page
LEE v. WEISMAN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 22 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1014>.
LEE v. WEISMAN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1014 (last visited October 22, 2014).
"LEE v. WEISMAN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_1014.