Separation of Church and State in the Educational System

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One of the most common questions asked about public prayer is whether or not it is legal

to hold it in a public school. It depends on the type of prayer we are talking about, and who is

doing the praying, since people are usually talking about organized classroom prayer, often led

by a teacher. The Supreme Court has set a law that states that organized prayer in a public

school goes against the First Amendment, whether it's in the classroom, over the loud speaker, or

even at a graduation ceremony. It also applies for Bible readings and when someone says "now

we will have a moment of silence", which courts will go against also. People feel it is not the

government's business to promote religious exercises, since they can easily be pushed upon

young students that have to be at school due to their attendance policies.

A public school has the responsibility to protect every student. This will include children

of various religions, as well as children with no religious faith. This does not mean

the school should be disrespectful of the important role religion plays for many students. Courts

have made it clear that students should have the right to practice their religion, with some

limitations. Students are free to pray, read their Bibles and even invite others to join their

religious group as long as they are not disruptive of the school or disrespectful of the rights to the

other students. A student should not be allowed to pressure or other kids in or on public school

grounds. For example, a student is allowed to pray before meals, read her Bible during study

hall, create an art project with a religious theme or invite other students to attend church. These


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...r promote religious instruction, even when it is held off campus. Solicitation of students to attend religious classes may not be done at the expense of the school,(9) and only those students whose parents have signed permission slips should be allowed to attend. Students who do not wish to attend may not be penalized. Of course, schools may not rent their facilities to religious groups for religious instruction during the school day.(10)

The question has arisen whether schools may give academic credit for released-time courses. Although the answer remains unclear, it is likely such a program would be unconstitutional, especially if credit is not given for other nonschool courses. There is very little to distinguish many of these religious courses from a religious education class, a nonacademic exercise for which schools could almost certainly not give credit.(11)
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