The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has put in writing its request that the Naval Academy reconsider its ritual of leading students in lunchtime prayer.
The group sent a letter Wednesday to the Annapolis superintendent, Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton, saying that the practice was unlikely to pass "constitutional muster" in the wake of an appellate court ruling Monday striking down supper prayers at the state-run Virginia Military Institute.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that VMI's suppertime grace violated the principle of church-state separation because of a "coercive atmosphere" that gave students little choice about participating.
"We see no basis on which the mandatory noontime prayer at the Naval Academy can be distinguished from the dinner prayer at the Virginia Military Institute," Susan Goering, the ACLU chapter's executive director, wrote in the two-page letter to Naughton. "We believe that when you have had a chance to review the 4th Circuit's opinion, you will agree that the Naval Academy's mandatory lunchtime prayer cannot pass constitutional muster, and will therefore cease the practice."
The ACLU told The Sun on Tuesday that it wanted the academy to review its lunchtime ritual.
The Naval Academy declined to comment yesterday, but has defended the practice in the past as integral to midshipmen's spiritual development.