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Religious law and school prayer


Religion and prayer in U.S.
public schools, libraries,
School Board meetings, etc.

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bullet "Americans are being denied the right to express their religious speech in the public square." Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition.
bullet "Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students". Federal Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley June 1998
bullet "A Congress that allows God to be banned from our schools while our schools can teach about cults, Hitler and even devil worship is wrong, out of touch, and needs some common sense." Rep. James Traficant, (D-OH) 1999-APR-27.
bullet "There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed." Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, 1890-MAR-18.
bullet "A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion." Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Engel v. Vitale, (1962)
bullet "School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible because it sends the ancillary message to members of the audience who are nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community. " U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Santa Fe v. Doe, (2000).

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Topics covered:


A general introduction:

  • Part 1: Overview. Prayers during school instruction time. Two major U.S. Supreme Court rulings: Engel v. Vitale & Lemon v. Kurtzman.

  • Part 2: What the U.S. Constitution prohibits (Cont'd).

  • Part 3: What the U.S. Constitution allows. Enforcing religious rights. Factors to consider: prayers in school.

  • Part 4: Factors to consider about prayers in school (Continued). List of landmark court rulings.

bullet About prayer in public schools:
bullet The court case that ended state-sponsored prayer
bullet Quotations from religious and political leaders
bullet Praying in the classroom  -- legally
bullet Moment of silence
bullet Position of U.S. political parties on school prayer
bullet Popular misconceptions about school prayer
bullet Accommodating prayers by Muslims
bullet About prayer at municipal government meetings
bullet Teaching religion:
bullet Teaching religion vs. teaching about religion
bullet Prayer at special events:
bullet Sports events
bullet Graduation ceremonies
bullet Court decisions and public reactions on graduation prayers
bullet At the flagpole - See You at the Pole events
bullet Student free speech guarantees:
bullet Students' religious jewelry and clothing
bullet Equal Access Act regarding student clubs
bullet Events reported in the media:
bullet 1995 to 1997 inclusive
bullet 2000 to 2002
bullet 2003 to now

bullet Other matters:
bullet Renting school & library facilities to community groups
bullet What the Bible says about public prayer
bullet Separation of church and state issues
bullet The Pledge of Allegiance prayer
bullet Mississippi High school student called "fool." Response by the American Humanist Association.

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Sources of additional information:

bullet The U.S. Department of Education guidelines for religion in the public schools at: 

bullet The National Congress of Parents and Teachers and Freedom Forum's "A parent's guide to religion in the public schools," at: This is a PDF file.

bullet Freedom Forum's "A teacher's guide to religion in the public schools," at: * **

bullet National Bible Association and the First Amendment Center's "The Bible & Public Schools," at: This is also a PDF file.

bullet Anti-Defamation League (ADL)'s "Religion in the Public Schools" at:

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  1. Religion Today news summary, 1999-MAR-19.
  2. ACLU Newsfeed, 1999-NOV-5.
  3. Rutherford Institute has a web page at:  
  4. Natural Prayer Project is available at:
    bullet Email:  
    bullet Website: 
    bullet Phone: 1-800-209-9929 (US only)
    bullet Fax: (619) 573-0752
  5. Dave Clark, "Dallas schools attempt church ouster," at: 

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Copyright 1995 to 2015 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Created 1995-APR-27

Last updated 2015-OCT-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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