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Judge Asked To Delay Prayer Order

November 11, 1997

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Alabama’s attorney general asked a federal judge Monday to delay enforcement of a ruling that forbids pregame prayers at sporting events and other forms of organized religion in public schools.

The state is appealing the judge’s ruling, which sparked protests around Alabama and complaints from many students and government officials.

Attorney General Bill Pryor said the ruling by U.S. District Judge Ira DeMent restricts the free speech rights of students, and should not be enforced until the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the appeal he is preparing.

Parts of the ruling Pryor wants to block involve students engaging in vocal prayer, prayers at graduation ceremonies, use of a school’s public address system to offer prayers, Bible readings at school-sponsored events and distribution of Bibles near schools by the Gideons.

The ruling made public Oct. 30 came in a lawsuit by a DeKalb County assistant principal who claimed years of coercive religious activity at school events. The judge issued guidelines on when Alabama’s public schools may allow expressions of religious belief and when vocal prayers, scripture readings and other religious activities are prohibited.

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