WASHINGTON, DC (CWN) - The Supreme Court refused two separate appeals on Monday, refusing to reverse a lower court ruling that an Ohio ban on partial-birth abortions is unconstitutional as well as a separate challenge to prayers or moments of silence at Tennessee State University's graduation ceremonies.

      The justices decided 6-3 to let stand the appeals court ruling that the 1995 Ohio law is unconstitutional because it would unduly interfere with the Supreme Court-mandated right to abortion. The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals said last November that the law was too broadly worded. But the high court's decision sets no national precedent and does not bode ill for federal legislation that has been twice vetoed by President Clinton and will be brought before Congress for an override vote.

      The court also turned away, without comment, an argument by mechanical engineering professor Dilip K. Chaudhuri of Tennessee State University that prayers and moments of silence at graduation ceremonies violate his right to practice Hinduism. A federal appeals court rejected Chaudhuri's argument that the moments of silence were intended to encourage prayer. The nonsectarian prayers appeared intended to "solemnize the events" and not to indoctrinate the audience, the appeals court said.

      A 1992 Supreme Court decision banned clergy-led prayer at public elementary and secondary school events, but has not ruled on whether such prayers are allowed in public schools if led by students.

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March 24, 1998 volume 9, no. 59         DAILY CATHOLIC