Coach Sues School

On Prayer Prohibition

A high school football coach has filed suit against a New Jersey school district, contending that it is violating his constitutional rights by prohibiting him from praying with his players before games.

In the suit, filed Monday in Superior Court in Middlesex County, East Brunswick High School football coach Marcus Borden is asking the court to rule that he can nod his head in silence during team prayers at pregame meals and kneel on one knee with the team in the locker room before a game.

Borden, the coach for 23 years, missed coaching one game Oct. 7 when he resigned in protest of a school board ruling that he could not participate in, lead, encourage or even be present at team prayers or risk being charged with insubordination. He rescinded his resignation within a week and hired Newark-based lawyer Ronald Riccio to represent him.

School Superintendent Jo Ann Magistro referred questions to the school board's attorney, Martin Pachman. Pachman said he had not received a copy of the suit.

"I don't know what it's about. We have acted in accordance with the mandates of federal law. If they want to change the law, they can try to do that, but I wish they would do it on someone else's time," Pachman said.

Riccio said Borden filed suit not to challenge U.S. Supreme Court rulings on school prayer but to obtain a clear ruling on what the coach can and cannot do.

"Our position is, team prayer is permitted, which the district admits. But they say Coach Borden can't participate, without saying what that means," Riccio said. "All we're asking the court to declare [is that] he can bow his head and take a knee, not as prayer but as a sign of his respect and collegiality with his players."

-- Religion News Service

'Fully Jewish Families'

Touted at Convention

In a departure from previous interfaith outreach efforts, the leader of the Reform Jewish movement told members gathered for the group's biennial convention in Houston that they should focus more on urging non-Jews who are married to Jews to convert to Judaism.

The Reform movement has long been outspoken about the effects of high intermarriage rates on Jewish life. In addition to offering outreach programs through synagogues and community groups, Rabbi Eric Yoffie said, the Union for Reform Judaism is launching a program to help synagogues attract converts and achieve "lifelong membership."

"We want families to function as Jewish families, and while intermarried families can surely do this, we recognize the advantages of an intermarried family becoming a fully Jewish family, with two adult Jewish partners," he said.

Yoffie also criticized the movement for failing to be a strong moral voice on teenage sexuality. He then announced a new initiative to curtail teenage sexual experimentation.

The Reform movement has 1.5 million members and more than 900 synagogues nationwide.

-- Religion News Service

Baptist Group Boosts

Opposition to Gay Sex

The governing board of the 1.4-million-member American Baptist Churches in the USA, meeting in Green Lake, Wis., added a statement against gay sex to the denomination's definition, but it is unclear whether that will heal a growing split over homosexuality.

The new wording says American Baptists are believers "who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with biblical teaching."

The General Board approved the wording, 59 to 45.

The denomination has taken previous stands against gay sex. But it has not disciplined congregations with liberal policies on homosexuality, according to complaints from the Pacific Southwest region, whose board will decide in December whether to have 300 member congregations vote on ending support for the denomination.

Last month, the West Virginia association, the largest regional group, with 465 congregations, defeated a proposal to break with the national denomination.

-- Associated Press