Borden v. East Brunswick School District : Clarifying First Amendment Jurisprudence in the Public School Context

Eric M. Helman

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When does a public school  employee cross the line between acceptable “supervision” of student  prayer sessions and impermissible “participation?” Is the line crossed if a high school football coach takes a knee and silently bows his head with his players as they pray before taking the field? According to the District Court for the District of New Jersey, the answer is no. This holding instantly generated a great deal of uncertainty for school districts and religious groups across the country. This Comment analyzes First Amendment jurisprudence in the public school context and exposes how the vagueness of the current law fueled the controversy and subsequent confusion in Borden. This Comment urges the Supreme Court to directly review this matter and adopt a bright-line standard, the “Purpose of Congregation Test,” in order to clarify the law in this critical context and protect the underlying principles of the First Amendment.
42 New Eng. L. Rev. 363

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