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Making Civics Real Workshop 1: Freedom of Religion  
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Workshop 1

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Student Perspectives: The case

Desjohnna: I’m representing the school board. The school board is fighting because they think they should be able to pray during football games and graduations and things like that. We think that if you want to pray it’s your freedom of religion to pray.

We had a packet that was about five or six pages and we had a lot of information in it that we had to read through and pick out what would be for our case and what would be against our case and get down to the root of what the Constitution’s really trying to say and how we could interpret that into our arguments. So it was processing all this information.

I’m worried that I might not be able to defend my case as well as I want to, that they might come at me with something that I’m not going to be able to back up or that I haven’t thought they would. I might get a little nervous then. But I pretty much think I have down what I’m going to say and what they are going to come at me with. I found a lot of good points that I could argue with, so I was feeling really good about the case.

I had never argued before the Supreme Court before and I was real nervous but I had to get my mind clear and read what I had down. When the family side went up, I felt more confident about our case because I didn’t feel like they really had a strong argument. In the end I probably was wrong. The Supreme Court decided that the families had a stronger case. I think they had one strong argument that since she said “in Jesus’s name I pray,” she pointed out a specific religion and that does go against the Lemon Test.

Destinee: It seemed like I was studying day and night just trying to figure out how to present my case and make it really good. What surprised me about the other side was that they came back with things that had nothing to do with the case and I thought they were going to be a little more prepared.

Two of the girls in the class have a way of thinking that because they’re Christian it’s right for everybody else who is Christian to think the way they do. I think that they both think so much alike because they were brought up strictly Christian in different ways than I was brought up as a Christian. They don’t understand anything that I say about it. I am Christian but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for [prayer] to be in a public school. I just get kind of angry at them because it’s like, “Why don’t you understand?” It gets frustrating. You try and listen but it doesn’t help when there is so much bickering back and forth.

Ina: I think we’re learning ways to look at different points of view because you can look at this case in four different points of view and come out with something different.

I’m arguing with the school board. The problem is that a female mentioned religion at the football game. We’re arguing whether she should have said it while at school. I don't think that she really made anyone feel bad by saying “In Jesus’s name I pray” because she said “I” and didn’t say “we” or “you have to.” She didn’t use any of those other words. So I think she should have freedom of speech. They told her to write the speech so why is there a problem now? I feel that she did the right thing. I don't think that the Mormon family really should have [brought the case].

We’re going to cite the [case] from 1990 where they ruled that you can have after-school sessions of religion, and the football game was an after-school event. So we’re going to see how far we’re going to get with that. [It will be a challenge] getting everyone to see our side. Because by the family already winning this case twice and taking it up a higher step, more people think we’re going to have a problem getting people to agree with us.
Jesse: I was a lawyer for the family side. I just thought I had more arguments on that one and I could back them up easier.

The first day, we [started] to get our arguments together and we put our feet in the other people’s shoes, like the school board, and looked at what they would use so we could look [at] how to back those up and defend them. That’s kind of how we got a strategy to win. I looked through the packet and highlighted lots of stuff and then we went on the Internet and looked up previous cases about religion in school.

John: I’m an attorney for the family. My preparation is going pretty well. We’re getting everything together for tomorrow. I was listening to the Justices and it sounded like they were in favor of the school board. They were saying that [the families] could just get up and leave if they want to. But I feel pretty strong about what we have to say tomorrow.

We’re going to surprise them in the beginning. We’re going to go up there and say a little prayer of our own, only it’s going to be different to show how the families felt. We’re going to say “God bless all our players in Satan’s name we pray” to show that that offends people. And I guess we’re just going to go up and say the precedents from past cases and try to get in their shoes and try to counter what they say.

Kaila: I’m the Chief Justice. I wanted to be an attorney for the school board and there was no room. Ms. Borges picked a number and we had to guess it and I just chose the highest number and I got it. Everybody said I’d probably make the best Chief Justice ‘cause I was really open to everything. At first I thought the Chief Justice chose who would win the case, but then I heard that you had to vote and I was okay. It’s a hard job; it’s very hard and I wouldn’t want to have it when I get older. I think I should have done a lot more research and maybe studied it a little more.

In the beginning I was looking more on the family winning because I just thought the families have good points. But then, when I read the background, I was more for the school board. So I kind of changed my mind because I didn’t see it as such a big deal as people made it to be. I didn’t really agree on the respondents winning. I really wanted the plaintiffs to win

I think it was really heated in there. Everybody was very passionate. But I think at times they really mixed up their opinions with the facts.

Kurtis: I’m the captain of my team so I’m like leading everything. I think it’s going great because we have everything we need for tomorrow. I was kind of concerned because we were saying what we were going to do and I think that the other team was listening. But we got some new stuff. We’re going to throw some curves at them that I don't think they’re ready for.

I really don’t like to do all that readin’ and writin’ but I figure if I want to be a lawyer, this is what it takes, so I might as well get used to it and start practicing now. So I went home and I looked on the Internet [for] some information that could be helpful in our case. The Supreme Court hasn’t ever had a case like this, so it was hard to find related cases in the same situation that they ruled on. We just kept using 1963, when the Supreme Court decided that reading a Bible off the intercom was unconstitutional.

My key argument is that we’re going to try to lead a prayer, but not like a Christian prayer. I want to see how the other lawyers and the judges feel about that, because that’s the same situation on the football field. I’m trying to throw a little curve at the beginning to hit them with the big thing so they’ll come out and prove I was wrong. I think that [the other side] going first also gives us an advantage, because whatever they say when they go up we can just think of a comeback at that.

We were arguing the Lemon Test. The Lemon Test is basically like saying that [the speech] has no religious purpose, or it doesn’t advance religion, or it doesn’t prohibit a religion. They did not pass the Lemon Test at all. They kept trying to say they’re right but you can [only] do your religion as long as it doesn’t harm or harass other human beings. That’s what they failed to realize.

I think the outcome is good. I was surprised that we had the same exact outcome as the real case and I think in real life it will help a lot of people not to be offended.

Thomas: I was a Supreme Court Justice. I thought it was going to be boring, something that would be just for fun or something. Sometimes I don’t even pay attention. The first day I didn’t read some of the stuff but then I started reading more and then I just got really into it at the end. I thought it would be a little easier but it was fun as it got harder and harder.

Zev: It was fun doing it, a good way to learn about the Supreme Court and it was fun being a judge, kind of hard, you know, seeing what they go through every day. [I] thought it was a pretty cool experience. I had to go over the Constitution a little bit, study the case, find background information, and look at other stories that had to do with that case. If I were to start over, I would probably look over the case a little more and try and ask a little more questions and be a little more involved in discussion.

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