Brief Fact Summary.
The School Board of a public school ordered a prayer to be read every morning. A group of families sued, arguing that it was a violation of the Establishment Clause.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Mandating the recitation of a prayer at the beginning of a public school day is a violation of the Establishment Clause.
Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment of any law respecting an establishment of religion, which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, state officials may not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the public schools of the State at the beginning of each school day--even if the prayer is denominationally neutral and pupils who wish to do so may remain silent or be excused from the room while the prayer is being recited.View Full Point of Law
The Board of Education of Union Free School in New Hyde Park, New York directed the school’s principal to have a prayer read aloud by each class, every morning, in the presence of a teacher. State officials composed the prayer with the intention of establishing “moral and spiritual training in the schools.”
Is mandating a prayer to be read at the beginning of each public school day a violation of the Establishment Clause?
Yes, it is.
This is not a violation of the Establishment Clause. It is merely a practice of allowing students who want to pray, to pray together. There is a spiritual tradition in America that should be honored–or at least allowed to be honored.
Using the public school system to encourage recitation of a prayer is wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause.
Praying is a religious activity. Furthermore, governmental officials wrote the prayer, breaching the separation of church and state.
It is irrelevant that the prayer is “nondenominational” or that pupils can be excused from reciting it. It is still religious material being mandated by the government.