Florey v. Sioux Falls: Atheist Florey Loses Suit Against School Holiday Programs

Florey v. Sioux Falls: Atheist Florey Loses Suit Against School Holiday Programs

Florey v. Sioux Falls School District

Decided: Florey v. Sioux Falls School District Roger Florey, an atheist, loses his suit against a local school district over their holiday programs. Florey had claimed that singing religious carols such as "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" during Christmas concerts was a violation of the separation of church and state.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the original school program was unconstitutional, but a revised program with a diversity of songs passes constitutional muster.

According to the majority decision:

"The First Amendment does not forbid all mention of religion in public schools; it is the advancement or inhibition of religion that is prohibited. ...

Hence, the study of religion is not forbidden "when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education." ...

We view the term "study" to include more than mere classroom instruction; public performance may be a legitimate part of secular study. This does not mean, of course, that religious ceremonies can be performed in the public schools under the guise of "study."

It does mean, however, that when the primary purpose served by a given school activity is secular, that activity is not made unconstitutional by the inclusion of some religious content. "

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