Ban on after-class prayer stands

The Supreme Court, steering clear of the hot political issue of prayer in public schools, refused Monday to allow schoolchildren to hold religious meetings in classrooms after hours.

The justices let stand a ruling declaring unconstitutional the Lubbock, Texas , school system's ''equal access'' policy, which gave elementary and high school student religious groups the same use of classrooms as nonreligious groups.

The justices also stayed out of a religious freedom dispute over whether skullcaps can be worn by Jewish high school basketball players despite a league safety rule banning headwear during games.

The court refused the government's plea for speedy treatment of its appeal of a Wyoming ruling that struck down the windfall oil profits tax. Federal lawyers argued that the threat of having to refund more than $26 billion already collected in taxes could disrupt the federal budget process.

In other action Monday, the justices:

* Refused to get involved in a case that the 84-year-old wife of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed in 1936 for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, hopes will clear her husband's name.

* Agreed to consider in a Nebraska case what a father has to prove to gain custody of his out-of-wedlock child.

* Agreed to settle a dispute over whether a man's confession to his probation officer that he murdered a 17-year-old girl can be used against him in court.

* Held South Carolina liable, 6 to 3, for $4.9 million in back payments for illegally denying unemployment compensation to women who left their jobs to have babies.

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