Tuesday, April 29, 2003

4th Circuit Shocker

Rules against VMI prayer dinner.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- In an important victory for First Amendment groups, a federal appeals court ruled Monday that the traditional prayers said before evening meals at the Virginia Military Institute are unconstitutional.

The decision upholds a lower court ruling and emphasizes that the extraordinary obedience demanded of VMI cadets doesn't give them the freedom to choose not to participate in what's been called a non-denominational, voluntary dinner prayer.

"In establishing its supper prayer, VMI has done precisely what the First Amendment forbids," a three-judge panel on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously.

"Put simply, VMI's supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors," Judge Robert B. King wrote in the opinion.