The QueQue: Biery barks on school prayer, Texas' big dry future, Ames Jones's final RRC shot against EPA
Published: February 15, 2012
Biery barks on school prayer
Whether with witty quips (like court orders riddled with sarcastic poems) or fiery rulings that sting ("benchslaps" as the legal blogs say), San Antonio judges rarely disappoint. Thursday, San Antonio U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery offered us another gem in his approval of settlement in the highly charged Medina Valley prayer-in-school case. After thanking U.S. Marshals and local cops for providing heightened security for him and his family throughout the case, Biery wrote:
"To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you. To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitability trumps probability. To those in the executive and legislative branches of government who have demagogued this case for their own political goals: You should be ashamed of yourselves."
Social conservatives railed against Biery when, weeks before graduation last May, he granted a temporary restraining order filed by an agnostic family at the district, claiming prayer in the invocation and benediction at their son's graduation excluded their beliefs and violated their constitutional rights. Governor Rick Perry slammed Biery's original ruling — which included barring Medina Valley seniors from asking the audience to join them in prayer, bow their heads, or end their remarks with "amen" — as reprehensible and an "inappropriate encroachment into the lives of Americans." State AG Greg Abbott stepped into the fray to help the district fight the case, and Biery's ruling was eventually overturned by a federal appeals court. And GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich took the harshest tone from the campaign trail, regularly calling Biery "an anti-religious dictatorial bigot" seeking to impose un-American values on the public.
Under the settlement approved last week, the district can't make prayer an official part of graduation ceremonies, though student speakers can still pray during their remarks from the podium. "The settlement," Biery wrote, "signifies a bright point in our nation's long and difficult effort to harmonize the competing interests written into the First Amendment. Although this pursuit is far from over, '[l]et us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice,'" quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. for good measure.
Under a heading "What This Case Has Not Been About", Biery wrote: "The right to pray. Any American can pray, silently or verbally, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, in private as Jesus taught or in large public events as Muhammad instructed."