Over the past three decades, the issue of the role of prayer in the public school system has become increasingly controversial. The current debate juggles the opposing interpretations of the exact intentions of America's Founders, who came from an other country, England, in pursuite of expanded freedoms. The first colonists in the 17th century especially desired religious freedom, because their former British government forced them all to learn and practice a centralized religion. Consequently, A merica's first legislators made certain that their religiously pluralistic nation would not be the victim of government intervention in religious matters. Therefore, religious freedom was guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the Unite d States. The writers included as the very first sentence the words, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." (Alley 13). This statement alows Americans to freely express and practice or chose not to practice a religion.
The two distinct terms of the religious freedom affirmation in the First Amendment to the Constitution became known as the Free Exercise Clause, which ensures religious expression, and the Establishment Clause, which protects citizens from state im posed religion. The two clauses are generally interpreted as being contradictory to each other. For instance, a right guaranteed to a particular group by one clause might directly violate the right of another group maintained by the other clause. Becau se of the conflicting religious expression clauses stated under the First Amendment, the role of prayer in public schools is controversial and must be interpreted in...
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...Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1994.
Barker, Dan. "The Case Against School Prayer." Internet Infidels. Online. Internet. 21 October 2002. Available: http://www.infidels.org/org/ffrf/issues/pray.html
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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