A federal appeals court has lifted the order banning public prayer at a Texas high school graduation Saturday.

The reversal comes on the heels of increasing criticism of a federal judge’s earlier ruling that agreed with the parents of one graduating student that religious expression during the ceremony at Medina Valley Independent School District would cause “irreparable harm” to their son.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals thought differently, reversing the judge’s ruling Friday and allowing students to say the word “amen” and invite the audience to pray during the ceremony.

“This is a complete victory for religious freedom and for Angela,” said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute, which had represented class valedictorian Angela Hildenbrand in the appeal. “We are thrilled that she will be able to give her prayer without censorship in her valedictorian speech tomorrow night. No citizen has the right to ask the government to bind and gag the free speech of another citizen.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s initial ban had been denounced as an “activist decision” by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who called it “exactly the wrong civics lesson to teach to the class of 2011.”

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