The Supreme Court let stand Monday a court ruling permitting a Missouri public school to prohibit dancing, rejecting a claim that the dance ban violated constitutional guarantees of separation of church and state.
The court, without comment, refused to hear the case brought by a number of parents and students in Purdy, Mo., who argued that the ban was religiously motivated in violation of the First Amendment bar on entangling church and state.The case came to the court from the Purdy School District. The town of Purdy, in rural southwestern Missouri, has a population of slightly more than 900 and is about 70 miles southwest of Springfield. Many of the town's residents belong to Southern Baptist churches.
The fundamentalist Christians oppose dancing and believe it is "scripturally prohibited," "sinful," and the music is "satanic."
The school district adopted a rule that states "school dances are not authorized and school premises shall not be used for purposes of conducting a dance."
The dancing case began in January 1986 when a group of parents asked the school to change the rule, complaining that students were driving long distances to attend "unofficial" school dances. A number of school officials said the rule would not be changed because of the objections of the religious community.
The parents brought suit in federal court, charging the rule was religiously motivated in violation of the constitutional prohibition against the entanglement of church and state.
U.S. District Judge Russell Clark in Springfield ruled the ban was unconstitutional in August 1988, and the school board allowed two dances to be held at the high school while appealing the ruling.
The petition drive by the students to end the ban drew national attention when the youths invited to town the stars of "Footloose," a movie about a Texas town without dancing. The actors, however, did not appear.
The lawyer for the school district, Ransom Ellis, said the situation in Purdy was different from that portrayed in the movie, in which dancing was not permitted in any part of the town.
In other action, the court:
-Refused to enter a dispute between Ohio's non-union teachers and the union over the degree of independent review required before the union collects agency shop fees.
-Refused to decide whether an employer may deny a job to an applicant because he has a foreign accent.
-Refused to become involved with attempts by two international jewel thieves to serve prison sentences in the United States.