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Prayer in School

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Prayer In School
Kevin Magilligan
Grand Canyon Univ

Prayer In Schools
The United States was founded on freedom. One of those freedoms is the Freedom of Religion. Our forefathers knew that there had to be a separation of church and state. This allowed citizens of the US to practice any religion they may chose and the government would not interfere. A plethora of court cases have ruled that having prayer in school is unconstitutional. While having prayer in school that is not sponsored by the administration is constitutional. Groups such as Moms in Prayer are for having prayer in schools. While the American Civil Liberties Union are against having prayers in schools.
"To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their religious beliefs, heritage, and traditions on public property, including schools, shall not be infringed. The United States and the States shall not compose school prayers, not require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity." Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK). Prayer in school is a debate that has been going on since the 1960’s with the landmark case of Engle V Vitale. The case found that a school wide solicited prayer recited by the students was unconstitutional. This ruling led to other litigation where school sponsored prayer was not allowed, such as during sporting events and graduations. Those that are for prayer in school will argue that it allows for the Freedom of Religion. Will bring back morality in the schools. And will allow students to express their First Amendment Right. Those against prayer in school will argue that one religion may go against other religious views. Violating the separation of church and state. Also, students will be chastised for their religious views if they are different from others.
There is heated debate as to whether religion should be allowed in schools. Those for religion will argue for religion in schools that it teaches values. While those against religion in schools will say that there is not one common religion among students in schools. These are among the many arguments for and against religion in schools.
There are several states, especially in the South, that are pushing for prayers in schools. Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, just signed a bill that will allow students to pray over the intercom at assemblies and sporting events. The law will allow a disclaimer by administration stating “this is not a state sanctioned prayer”. In South Carolina, has introduced legislation that will allow for a mandatory moment of silence before the start of the school day. Those students that do not want to participate can leave the classroom. Those that want prayer in school state that it can build moral character. A primary purpose of public education is to shape good citizens. This involves more than just the memorization of facts. Most Americans are in favor of prayer in public school because they realize that there is something to be gained from the open acknowledgement of God’s existence. ("Prayer Affects Society," n.d.) Since prayer has been taken out of schools those for prayer in public school will argue test scores have gone down, and violent crime among teenagers is up. Allowing prayer in school sets an important standard. It tells students that they are more than just a collection of chemicals and energy that happen to be occupying space and time.
Those against prayer in school will argue that prayer being allowed in school will eventually force religion onto students. Schools are a place where there are children of many different cultures and religions and it is not fair to have the children forced into one religion with allowing prayer in school. School is a place where students are allowed a freedom of expression, speech. But, including prayer in an unbiased place takes that away. Also, there needs to be a separation from church and state, which is stated in the Constitution. By allowing prayers in school this is a violation of the Constitution. Because, schools have become melting pots there are many religions represented such as Catholisism, Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, Judaism and so forth. By allowing public prayer in school not all religions can be represented. The ACLU, one of the biggest opponents of allowing prayer in school is that the group believes that any program of religious indoctrination -- direct or indirect -- in the public schools or by use of public resources is a violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and must be opposed. (http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/constitutional-amendment-school-prayer) Reason the ACLU is against prayer or any religious activity in school is that children are required to attend school and should not have to be pressured into praying in something they do not have faith in, believe in or something that goes against their faith and religious upbringing. They argue that any prayer in school will be in favor of a certain faith and not express the views of all religions.
For Prayer in School * Freedom of Religion * Prayer is a positive force in schools * Enhance the learning environment * 1st Amendment * Builds moral character, lacking in today’s society * Increase test scores * Allows students to learn that there is more to life then what they are learning in books.
Against Prayer in School * Violates separation of church and state * Will cause bullying and harassment of students who do not view or share the same religious views as others. * Religious views will influence others * Only one religion will be expressed * Will cause class disruptions
How my school has addressed this issues is getting rid of a moment of silence an allowing group prayer and religious clubs to meet during non instructional time. This is done under the Equal Access Act passed in 1984. It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings. (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/4071) Students that wish to participate in prayer gather around the flag pole before school every so often during the school year. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes meets in the media center during lunch. These activities are permissible under the act by the administration. I have not seen any communication from the administration regarding these activities. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), ruled that it is a violation of the constitution to allow a school wide prayer by school administration which encouraged students to recite. The case was brought by families of New York they stated it contradicted religious beliefs. The Prayer in question "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country." The argument was based on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling in favor of the plaintiffs outlined the importance of separation of church and state. in fact violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. In holding that the state’s support of prayer recitation in the public schools was illegal, the High Court stated, “In this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as part of a religious program carried on by the government. (Essex, 2012, p. 16)This ruling led to other cases of where prayer was not allowed at sporting events, graduations or even silence of moments and meditations. Because of Engle v Vitale, other landmark cases have taken place trying to allow prayer to take place at school. Wallace v Jaffree (1985), a case of Alabama allowing prayer or meditation was found a violation against the constitution. Lee v Weisman (1992) prohibiting clergy led prayer during graduations. Santa Fe Independent School v Doe (2000) allowing prayer at high school football games. Jones v Clear Creek Independent School District provided an opportunity for communities to allow students to make the decisions regarding prayer during graduation ceremonies. (Essex, 2012) These rulings violated the Establishment clause of the First amendment “Congress shall make no law in the establishment of Religion” (Essex, 2012). The rulings have one thing in common that is the separation of church and state. The Eleventh Circuit Court under which jurisdiction I live ruled that administration not push their religious views on students and that student led groups may pray at school events which is not sponsored by the school. In conclusion, the debate of having prayer in school will go on for many years. Those for it say it will bring back morality in schools, higher test grades and students will learn that there is more to life then what they are receiving from textbooks. They will argue that having prayer in school and school related activities will not disrupt the educational environment but will enhance it. That having prayer in school will lead to teaching of religion in schools allowing students to learn about other cultures. Those against having prayer in school is that only one religious view will be expressed. It violates the constitution of the separation of church and state. That religious views can be pushed onto to others that do not share the same religion. Also, bullying and harassment may take place causing a negative learning environment.

References
Essex, N. (2012). School Law and the Public Schools: A Practical Guide for Educational Leaders, (5th ed.). [Adobe Digital Editions]. Retrieved from http://gcumedia.com/digital-resources/pearson/2011/school-law-and-the-public-schools_a-practical-guide-for-educational-leaders_ebook_5e.php
School Prayer Affects All Society. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.creationtoday.org/school-prayer/

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