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Pray for Relief, but Be Careful About Praying in Court

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 24, 2019 11:40 AM

Many lawyers have uttered the foxhole prayer.

It's that prayer you give after a judge crushes you with a bad ruling. Even the most atheist attorney knows the feeling, if not the words.

Whatever you believe, however, you can't really pray in court unless it's a prayer for relief. So maybe that's when you ask for a break.

Ask for a Break

The foxhole prayer is about accepting vulnerability. It can change things, which is really what we're asking for when we make the petition:

"Your honor, may I have a short break?" 

The problem, of course, is that not all judges are created equal. At the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, four Justices had a problem with a prayer case.

In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Court denied review. However, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh had something more to say.

"Most Troubling"

In the case, a football coach said he was wrongly fired for kneeling on the football field and praying after games. The Supreme Court denied his petition, but the Justices said the appellate court's views on prayer were "most troubling."

The Ninth Circuit suggested a coach had a duty to "refrain from any manifestation of religious faith -- even when the coach is plainly not on duty," the Justices said.

"The suggestion that even while off duty, a teacher or coach cannot engage in any outward manifestation of religious faith is remarkable," Alito wrote for the court.

Of course, the opinion didn't help the coach much. For lawyers who believe in tough cases, it might be better to pray in a closet.

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