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Borden v. School District of the Township of East Brunswick

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
523 F.3d 153 (2008)


Marcus Borden (plaintiff) was the head football coach at the East Brunswick High School (the school). The school was part of East Brunswick School District (the district) (defendant). For 23 years, Borden organized and either led or participated in two prayers every week with the football team. The first prayer was before the pre-game dinner for the team, and the second prayer was held immediately before the game. Borden led the pre-game prayer and the first pre-meal prayer of the season. The following pre-meal prayers were led by a senior player chosen by Borden. During the 2005 football season, several parents complained about the prayers. In response to the complaints, the district developed guidelines for student-led prayers. The guidelines permitted the students to lead prayers, but faculty and coaches were prohibited from encouraging, leading, initiating, mandating, or participating in the prayers. Borden was then directed to comply with these guidelines. Borden initially resigned, but eventually withdrew his resignation and finished coaching the 2005 football season. Borden complied with the guidelines for the 2005 season. However, Borden sued the district, alleging that the guidelines unconstitutionally infringed upon his First Amendment rights. Prior to the 2006 season, Borden asked the team captains to call and find out if the players wanted to continue the prayers. The team captains reported that the players voted to continue the prayers. The district court ruled that the policy was unconstitutional and granted Borden’s motion for summary judgment. The district court also ruled that Borden’s silent participation did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. After the district court’s decision, Borden stood and bowed his head during the pre-meal prayer and kneeled during the pre-game prayer. The district appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Fisher, J.)

Concurrence (Barry, J.)

Concurrence (McKee, J.)

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