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Lee v. Weisman

Application Of Lemon

The district court held that the use of prayer at public school graduation ceremonies did constitute a violation of the Establishment Clause. To reach its verdict, the district court applied the three-pronged test for establishing infringement of the Establishment Clause devised in Lemon v. Kurtzman. The so-called Lemon Test directed that any state-sponsored program, in order to adhere to the Establishment Clause, must: reflect a clearly secular purpose; have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and avoid excessive government entanglement with religion. The district court did not comment on the first or third stipulations of the Lemon Test, but noted that the use of prayer at official public school functions violated the second clause, in that by having prayer of any kind at a state function the idea of religion in general was advanced. Robert E. Lee, principal of the Nathan Bishop Middle School of Providence, Rhode Island, and representing the petitioners, appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The court of appeals upheld the ruling of the district court, and expanded its scope by stating that the practice of using prayer at official school functions in fact violated all three prongs of the Lemon Test. The petitioners then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments on 6 November 1991.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Lee v. Weisman - Significance, Political Landscape, Graduation Traditions, Application Of Lemon, A Test For Lemon, Impact