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No Touchdown Jesus When Santa Fe Superintendent of Schools Richard Ownby was notified by a group of citizens that they planned to protest his decision to continue with school-sponsored prayer at Santa Fe High School Indian football games, he was not amused. According to Will Ellsworth, a Houstonian who helped organize the October 8 protest at Santa Fe’s homecoming game against Texas City, Ownby told him that Ellsworth’s request for a permit to march on Warpath sidewalks would probably be approved, but that Ownby would first check with local Baptist ministers, and then talk to the mayor and police chief, to “get a feel” for how the community might react. Ownby told Ellsworth, “I cannot guarantee that they won’t take your signs and tion to that helpful lesson in tolerance and civics, Ownby insisted on reciting to Ellsworth in full a series of school facility rules, including provisions against obscenity, libel, rude language, and “material that depicts or describes sexual acts, masturbation, bestiality, excretory functions, or lewd exhibition of the genitals in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards of the commu nity.” Ellsworth assured the superin tendent that wouldn’t be a problem. In the end, more than fifty people of various beliefs, including some Christians alarmed by the school dis trict’s sectarian position, marched outside the stadium in defiance of hundreds of football fans, and in opposition to the school district’s insistence formally seconded in court by Governor Bush and Attorney General John Cornyn that a football game is the type of solemn community occasion befitting public, schoolsponsored prayer. They were met by counter-protestors, including one who waived a well-received “Honk for God” sign. The original lawsuit, prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union, was brought by Catholic and Mormon parents whose children had been subject to unwelcome proselytizing from schoolteachers. When the Fifth Circuit Court ruled against the Santa Fe I.S.D., the school district appealed, and the case is now under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, districts around the state have been left to decide how to handle the issue. Re sponses range from the stubborn, as in Celina, where the school board voted to continue praying whatever the consequences, to the creative, in Iowa Park, where a radio station agreed to broadcast a prayer just prior to kickoff, so that devout fans could bring their radios to the game and pray along from the stands. Back in Santa Fe, Federal Judge Sim Lake has granted the school a temporary injunction to allow prayer to continue through the end of the season. Senior Marian Ward, daughter of a local Baptist minister, began the game with a prayer to her Lord, beginning, “Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that your presence is in the stadium tonight.” Designated Prayer Ward was theoretically selected by a vote of school seniors, although it turns out she was the second choice \(after the winner fewer than a fifth of the 250 seniors participated. The turnout suggests that the school’s new reputation for may be overrated. And judging from the final score, the visitors from Texas City may have been praying harder: Texas City, 50 Santa Fe, 0. + “Bush,” from p. 7 campaign, when he swore to shut down the Texas Education Agency. was the educrats at the federal Department of Education. He laid out something that sounded like a voucher program, in which federal Title I funds would be taken from schools with a failing record and given to parents to pay for their children to attend private schools. And he took a page from Ronald Reagan, with an anecdote about big government. “The Department of Education recently streamlined the grant application process for states. The old procedure involved 487 different steps, taking an average of twenty-six weeks. So, a few years ago, the best minds of the administration got together and ‘reinvented’ the grant process. Now it takes a mere 216 steps, and the wait is twenty weeks.” He even recognized Mayor Giuliani for bringing “order and civility back to the streets cutting the crime rate by 50 percent.” He didn’t mention the pratfalls along the road to civility, such as Giuliani’s police officers shooting an innocent African street vendor nineteen times, thereby knocking the mayor off the short list for the vice presidency. Bush did take a few swipes at his own party, for its focus on “the national economy, to the exclusion of all else,” and for “speaking a sterile language of rates and numbers, of C.B.O. this and G.N.P. that.” And he said that too often on social issues, his party has painted an image of America “slouching toward Gomorrah.” After the speech, reporters pressed McKinnon for the source and meaning of the line, “slouching toward Gomorrah.” McKinnon wasn’t sure where it came from, but suggested that the reporter take it at “its face value.” Again, I understood why the road-weary reporter wanted to go home. The “big white event” was a fundraiser scheduled for the same Sheraton ballroom later that evening. More than two thousand people drank good wine, ate at a buffet line, and waited for Bush to speak after a short biographical video backed by a triumphalist sound track with lots of brass and a home-movie feel. Backed by Governor Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, and a spectral looking Alfonse D’Amato, Bush delivered his standard stump speech his real forte. It was familiar material, the lines about “prosperity with a purpose,” compassionate conservatism that “leaves no willing heart behind,” and a military plagued by “low morale and aging weapons systems.” He also promised “to re-arm America.” His delivery was great and the crowd most of whom had contributed $1,000 to the campaign loved him. “I think we did $2.7 million in three days here,” Pataki’s chief aide said. He wanted to know how Pataki came across in his speech. I began to understand why the roadweary reporter went home. L.D. OCTOBER 29, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7