Religion and School Prayer in Public Schools Essay

Religion and School Prayer in Public Schools Essay

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      America's founders envisioned a nation whose government would allow for freedoms and rights to be guaranteed to its citizens. The desire for religious freedom was prominent, sine it was not a right granted to the early colonists living under Briti sh rule. Because England's government forced all of its citizens to learn and practice the same religion, America's first legislators made certain that government intervention in religious matters was prohibited. Therefore, religious freedom was ensured in the First Amendment to the Constitution, as it states, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . ." (Whitehead, Rights 49). This statement allowed Americans to f reely express and practice or chose not to practice a religion. The two distinct parts of the religious freedom affirmation in the First Amendment became known as the Free Exercise Clause, which guarantees religious expression, and the Establishment Clau se, which protects citizens from state sponsored religion (Whitehead, Rights 49). These two clauses are generally interpreted as being contradictory to each other. Often times, a right guaranteed by one clause contrasts with a right maintained by the other clause. Since the two clauses rae not black and white, there is an extensive amount of gray area. Due to the conflicting religious expression clauses stated under the First Amendment, the role of prayer in public schools is controversial and must be interpreted in such a way to accommodate all and restrain from violating the rights of any religious believers and nonbelievers.


The dispute over school prayer has stemmed from the government's views on the relationsh...

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...ayer. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1994.

Barker, Dan. "The Case Against School Prayer." Internet Infidels. Online. Internet. 21 October 2002. Available:

Farmer, Rod. "The School Prayer Issue." Education 104 (1984): 248-49.

Gaffney, Edward McGlynn. "A Church in Texas." Commonweal 124 (April 25, 1997): 9-10.

O'Connor, Sandra. "Forward: the Establishment Clause and Endorsement of Religion." Journal of Law and Religion 8 (1990): 1-4.

Sikorski, Robert. Prayer in Public Schools and the Constitution 1961-1992. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993.

Thomas, Oliver. "Prayer and Speech." Finding Common Ground 12 (1996): 29 pars. Online. Internetr. 1 October 2002.

Whitehead, John W. The Rights of Religious Persons in Public Education. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994: 33,49-50.

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