The First Amendment of the United States Constitution stops the government from establishing a religion (Guidance). It does so with the Establishment Clause which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” (PBS). It also protects 1religious beliefs and practices from the government (Guidance). It does this with the Free Exercise Clause which continues with, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (PBS). Together these two clauses create the separation of church and state (PBS).
When the subject of school prayer comes into question, the answer of if it is constitutional or unconstitutional is not an easy one. This is because the Constitution does not ...view middle of the document...
Schools are allowed to offer “moments of silence” during the school day. During this time, students are allowed to pray silently (Guidance). Schools can excuse students from class for their religious exercise if it does not impose a significant burden on the other students (Guidance). Students are allowed to express their in classroom assignments. Teachers are to grade these assignments based only on academics, not religious content (Guidance). School assemblies and extracurricular activities maybe not include prayer or religious content. Prayer is also not allowed at graduation ceremonies. Baccalaureate or other religious ceremonies can be held on school grounds, but may not be organized by school officials (Guidance).
People in favor of prayer in schools say that the United States Supreme Court has taken away freedom of religion from students who would like to pray and that school prayer is not the same as the government establishing a religion. Also, that school prayer would instill values in children and that school shootings, drug and alcohol use, and teenage pregnancy rates would go down (Pros and Cons).
People against school prayer argue that it violates the Establishment Clause and the separation of church and state. That public schools are meant for education, not religion. Formal prayer in unnecessary because students are already allowed to prayer in a non-disruptive way. It may lead to intolerance between religions and students who choose not to prayer may be ostracized. Peer pressure makes it difficult for it to be completely voluntary (Pros and Cons).
In the 1961 Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale, ten, New York parents sued the Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 9. They sued because the prayer, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country.” was being publicly recited by students in the classroom everyday. The court ruled the prayer to be unconstitutional (PBS).
The Republican Party is in favor of voluntary school prayer (Republican Party). Also, they are in favor of having school facilities accessible for religious groups (White House 2012). Current Republic Presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, believes that “voluntary school prayer creates a bond between you and Creator” (Education). Republican Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee believes that “ending school prayer was one step in society’s moral decay” (Education). And in November of 2010, Republican Texas Governor, Rick Perry said that “public prayer is not establishing a religion” (Education).
Most democrats oppose school prayer (Hoenisch). In July of 1994, Democratic Vice President, Joe Biden voted no to allowing voluntary prayer in schools (Education). However, a small portion of Southern conservatives were in favor of Ronald Reagan’s amendment that, if passed, would have legalized prayer in public schools (Hoenisch).