Hed: Final briefs filed in school prayer case
By Monique Harrison
OXFORD – The final set of briefs has been filed in the Pontotoc County school prayer case, and U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers is expected to hand down a ruling within the next month.
“Both sides asked for additional time to prepare their briefs,” said Pontotoc County Schools attorney Phillip Tutor. “The last of those briefs was filed late last week. So at this point, we are just sitting back and waiting for the ruling.”
Originally, the final briefs in the federal court trial were expected to be turned in by early April.
Extensive briefs were required because no closing arguments were heard in the three-day trial that ended March 6.
Pontotoc County mother of six Lisa Herdahl filed a lawsuit against the school district in December of 1994 after she learned that the North Pontotoc Attendance Center intercom was being used to broadcast student-led prayers. She also objects to Bible history classes at the school. Elementary students at the kindergarten through 12th-grade Ecru school are taught a daily Bible story. In high school, students can take an elective Bible history class.
Herdahl is joined in the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the People for the American Way.
Representatives for both sides of the controversy have said they expect the case to be appealed, regardless of the outcome.
“Obviously, we will look at the major decisions in the case and decide from there,” said Pontotoc County Schools Superintendent Jerry Horton. “But if we feel like we have lost major parts of that argument, I feel certain we will appeal. We are very serious about this. And the other side has indicated that they, too, intend to appeal.”
The case has brought national attention to Pontotoc County, with Herdahl and her oldest son, 16-year-old Kevin Engle, and school prayer advocates debating the issue most recently on the Oprah Winfrey Show.