Third Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Borden Case Today

Washington, DC– Today, the Interfaith Alliance called on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to overturn a lower court’s characterization of prayer as a secular act.  The court today heard oral argument in the case Borden v. East Brunswick School District.

Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance said, “I hope the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will agree with us that Mr. Borden’s position is degrading and dangerous to religion. It is not the role of schools or courts to take away meaning in a clearly religious act.”

In the case in question, Marcus Borden, a high school coach and teacher in New Jersey is accused of crossing the line by participating, in his official capacity, in prayer sessions with his players. Borden, argued that bowing his head and kneeling during these sessions were “purely secular symbolic acts,” a position with which the district court agreed.

In an amicus brief filed with the Third Circuit, The Interfaith Alliance and the seven other groups that signed it concluded that:

By bowing his head and kneeling in a prayer circle with students as they pray, Coach Borden unconstitutionally crosses the line from government neutrality to government participation in and endorsement of religious exercise.  Coach Borden’s claim that his actions lack religious content is both disingenuous and insulting to sincere religious adherents.

The other organizations signing the amicus brief are The Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, Jewish Women International, Muslim Advocates, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Sikh Council on Religion and Education, and The Union for Reform Judaism.

The brief was prepared by Pamela Harris and Pammela Quinn of O’Melveny & Myers.

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit