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Members of Shelbyville, Delaware’s Indian River School Board bowed their heads for a moment of silence at the start of this week’s board meeting — a departure from their typical practice of joining in a board-member-led prayer.

“Then they made a unanimous decision to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of the recent Third District Court of Appeals ruling that the district’s policy of opening board meetings with a prayer — often a Christian one — was unconstitutional,” reported Molly Murray of the local News Journal newspaper:

Charles M. Bireley, the school board president, said there is enough difference of opinion among federal courts on the constitutionality of prayer before public meetings that the issue needs to be settled by the nation’s top court.

“We feel as if it needs to be clarified,” he said.

In addition, Bireley said the U.S. District Court in Wilmington ruled earlier in favor of the school board’s prayer policy. A three-judge panel at the court of appeals level overturned the lower court ruling earlier this month.

Bireley said the conflicting regional federal court rulings were another motivating factor for board members in their decision to seek Supreme Court review.

The court battle over prayer at school board meetings dates back to 2004, when a Georgetown-area preacher delivered a Christian prayer for the invocation at the Sussex Central High School graduation.

Two non-Christian families complained to school officials.

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