It ruled that a policy permitting student – led , student -initiated prayer at high school football games violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The court announced its decision on June 19, holding the policy unconstitutional in a 6–3 decision.
But the Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale (1962) held that official recitation of prayers in public schools violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause . The ruling is hailed by some as a victory for religious freedom, while criticized by others as striking a blow to the nation’s religious traditions.
Students look to teachers as authority figures, and allowing educators to conduct a prayer service is an abuse of their authority. Teacher-led prayer will apply unnecessary pressure to non-religious students, while also compelling teachers to lead prayers that they do not necessarily believe in.
“Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. Neither the United States nor any State shall compose the words of any prayer to be said in public schools .”
Since the 1990s, controversy in the courts has tended to revolve around prayer at school -sponsored extracurricular activities. Thus, anyone is allowed to pray in schools in the United States, as long as it is not officially sponsored by the school and it does not disrupt others from doing their work.
The Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom guaranteed freedom of religion to all people in the state, regardless of their religious preference. This statute played a large part in the creation of the Establishment of Religion Clause .
The students and teachers said they have been discriminated against for practicing their religion at school. The U.S. Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer in public schools in a 1962 decision, saying that it violated the First Amendment.
In the landmark 1962 case of Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that it was unconstitutional for a government entity such as a public school , or government agents such as public school employees, to require students to recite prayers .
In 1971, the Supreme Court surveyed its previous Establishment Clause cases and identified three factors that identify whether or not a government practice violates the Establishment Clause : “First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither
Prayer unites groups of people. If group prayer was allowed in school , there will be a better understanding of right and wrong among people. Prayer also will make people acknowledge that there is something bigger than us. This leads to less reliance on things such as sex, drugs and alcohol.
With regards to school prayer, Madalyn Murray O’Hair played no role at all — not even a minor one. The decision which prohibited the state from sponsoring specific prayers in public schools was Engel v. Vitale, decided in 1962 by an 8-1 vote.
So what exactly happened 50 years ago? In two landmark decisions – Engel v. Vitale on June 25, 1962, and Abington School District v. Schempp on June 17, 1963 – the Supreme Court declared school -sponsored prayer and Bible readings unconstitutional.
Ackerman Legislative Attorney American Law Division SUMMARY The Supreme Court has held government -sponsored prayer in the public schools to violate the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment.
It is unconstitutional for teachers to pray with or in the presence of students in school or in their capacities as teachers or representatives of the school.
The Regents tried to skirt individual doctrines by composing this prayer: “Almighty God , we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.” Each class was to begin each school day by reciting the prayer.