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Issue: "As the West burns," Sept. 6, 2003

The full U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals will not reconsider an April decision by a three-judge panel striking down the Virginia Military Institute's tradition of reading a suppertime prayer. The Aug. 13 vote was a 6-6 tie. Judge Allyson Duncan, confirmed in July, did not participate in this vote. Two vacancies remain on the 15-member court.

A federal judge in California will reconsider his June decision striking down a federal law that protects churches from some local government regulations. The Elsinore Christian Center sued when the city denied its permit to move into a commercial building. The judge said that the city had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act but that Congress did not have authority to enact such a "blunderbuss" statute. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson (appointed by President Reagan) issued the decision.

A federal judge in Colorado has blocked a state law requiring recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The ACLU challenged the statute, and the judge said that because it allowed students, but not teachers, to opt out, it pitted participants against nonparticipants. The decision, based on the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee, was issued by U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock (appointed by President Reagan).

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