Football Prayer Forgone

HOUSTON--A Texas teenager has decided not to lead her classmates in prayer before high school football games, fearing her role in a constitutional battle could lead to her expulsion.

Stephanie Vega had been elected by other students to deliver short messages "solemnizing" each of the Santa Fe Indians' home games. But the 16-year-old junior changed her mind on Wednesday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this year that student-led prayers may be conducted at solemn events such as graduations. But the court ruled out prayers before football games, saying they don't share the "singularly serious nature" of graduations.

Superintendent Richard Ownby had warned that any student who leads prayers at the Sept. 3 football game "would be disciplined as if they had cursed."

"When a student is told by the government that she may say anything except a prayer, and if she does pray, she will be disciplined as if she had cursed, it is just too much pressure," Vega said in a statement. "I do not want to be expelled from school for using the word 'God' in a reverent manner."

Ownby said he regrets his comparison.

"It was a poor choice of examples on my part," he said. "But it is my belief that you have to deal with a student that prays the same as any other student that does something you told them not to do."

Addenda

* MONTEREY, Calif.--A $50 million plan to develop the crumbling Cannery Row was unanimously rejected by City Council members who said the plan for dozens of new shops, restaurants and condominiums just yards from Monterey Bay would destroy the city's cultural heritage and create terrible traffic jams.

* DETROIT--Some of the more than 7,000 guns sold by the Detroit Police Department to a Vermont wholesaler may have ended up in the city's gun shops, which are being sued by the city over the proliferation of illegal weapons. Police Chief Benny Napoleon said the city used the $800,000 generated by the sale to buy new weapons for police and that the wholesaler was not barred from reselling the old guns to dealers in Detroit.

* CHICAGO--A man bolted past security at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, prompting the evacuation of 6,000 passengers, the cancellation of at least 120 flights and the disruption of air traffic across the country. Officials said the incident began when a man ran the wrong way into a guarded passageway, normally used by those exiting the terminal, and disappeared into the crowded concourse. Neither he nor anything suspicious was found, and flights resumed three hours later.

* SACRAMENTO--It soon will be safe to change your clothes in California again. Gov. Gray Davis (D) has signed a bill outlawing "video voyeurs"--people who secretly videotape others in changing rooms, bathroom stalls and other places that offer a "reasonable expectation of privacy."