S.F. Judge Gives Green Light to Student Prayer Suit

San Francisco, CA – A federal judge in San Francisco has rejected efforts by an East Bay community college district to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two students who were disciplined for praying on campus. The students are represented by staff and affiliate attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute.

Just before Christmas, 2007, two students at the College of Alameda, Kandy Kyriacou and Ojoma Omaga, were sent letters declaring the school’s intent to suspend them, and warning that further infractions could result in expulsion. The students at first thought the letters were a mistake, since they never stated how the students had violated school policies. School officials later said that Kandy was disciplined for praying outside of class for a sick teacher who bowed her head to receive the prayer. Ojoma was not part of that prayer, and her only offense appears to be that she met Kandy afterward within view of another teacher who complained.

When the College of Alameda refused to rescind the suspension letters or give the students clues as to what future prayers might get them expelled, PJI attorneys filed suit. Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston rejected the College’s attempts to dismiss the case, agreeing with the students that their allegations had merit.

PJI affiliate attorneys Steven N.H. Wood and Christopher J. Schweickert, of the Walnut Creek firm Bergquist, Wood and Anderson, LLP, represent the students along with PJI. Steven Wood commented, “To this day, the College of Alameda has never provided a real explanation for its threats to expel these students. But it has disciplined them for non-disruptive, private prayer between consenting adults. We will not stand by and let a college trample these fundamental rights.”

PJI President Brad Dacus stated, “It is alarming that a publicly-funded college would seek to suspend and expel students for praying on campus, then dig in its heels to defend an untenable, unconstitutional position. We are encouraged that the federal court has given us the green light to pursue this case.”