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The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a high school football coach who wants to bow his head and kneel during prayers led by his players despite a school district policy prohibiting it.


In an order Monday, the justices ended Marcus Borden's fight against the East Brunswick, N.J., school district's policy that forbids him and other staff members from joining in student-led prayer. The federal appeals court in Philadelphia sided with the district.

The high court declined to weigh in on whether Borden's desire to bow his head silently and "take a knee" with his football players violates the Constitution's prohibition on government endorsement of religion. Borden says such gestures are secular.

The school district says Borden, the East Brunswick coach since 1983, had a long history of leading prayers before he was ordered to stop after complaints from some parents. The district says the issue is whether its policy is constitutional, not Borden's actions.

Messages left for Borden and lawyer Ronald Riccio were not immediately returned Monday.

"Coaches are not supposed to be promoting religion; that's up to students and parents and pastors," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia agreed that the school district policy is constitutional, but the judges differed on what exactly the coach should do if his team prays.

The Supreme Court ended school-sponsored prayer in 1962 when it said directing that a prayer be said at the beginning of each school day was a violation of the First Amendment. The justices reaffirmed the decision in 2000 by saying a Texas school district was giving the impression of prayer sponsorship by letting students use loudspeakers under the direction of a faculty member for prayers before sports events.


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