Prayer in the Public School System
Over the past thirty years or so the issue of prayer or “religious
expression” in the public school system has brought on heated controversy, but
the question is still open for debate---Should students be allowed to have prayer
or to express their religious ideals openly in the public schools across America?
Many people have attempted to come up with an answer to that question,
but, so far no compromise has been agreed upon. This is due to the fact that
many people hold strong opinions when it comes to religion and education.
As with any argument or debate there are basically two sides, but this
conflict has three sides: those people who think that are “pro-prayer” and believe
that there shouldn’t be a problem with prayer in the school system; those who
are against religion and education being mixed and are strong supporters of
keeping the church and the education system completely separated; and those
who are somewhat unconcerned or in the dark about where the issue stands
Many of those people who seemed to be unconcerned about this matter
have probably chosen to remain silent due to confusion. One very common
misconception is that any type of religious expression, such as prayer, is to be
kept completely out of the public schools (Buschman 1). In fact, more than half
of the “confused” or “unconcerned” persons out there do not have a good
understanding of what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to religion in school.
So, just how much religion is allowed in our school systems today? A
constitutional aspect must be taken to answer this question. The First
Amendment clearly and plainly states that all Americans are guaranteed five
freedoms or liberties: freedom of speech, freedom to petition the government,
freedom of the press, freedom to assembly, and freedom of religion. The
applicable part of that amendment (freedom of religion) has been broken down
into two major clauses which are the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise
Clause. The Establishment Clause has been translated as to say the Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion (Concerned Women for
America 1). The second clause deals with exactly what the title implies---the free
exercise of religion. It basically states that Congress can make no law prohibiting
anyone’s right to freely exercise their religious beliefs (CWA 1).
Therefore, students have the same right to engage in individual or group
prayer and religious discussion during the school day as they do to engage in
other comparable activities (U.S. Dept. Of Education 1). Individual students are
free to pray, express, religious viewpoints, read the Bible, and carry on any other
form of religious expression as long as they are not being disruptive or
disrespectful to the rights of other students. Students are also allowed to
participate in religious clubs or groups at school. According the Equal Access...