We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

School Prayer & the US Constitution Essay


There was a lot of happening in 1960’s, or so it seems. The lawyers, the clerics, the socialists, the politicians, the religious activists and the common public; they all appeared to have something critical, urgent and spat on their agenda; rather exceedingly controversial and notorious matter; the Prayer in Schools. Court prohibits Prayer in Schools Originally, the Warren Court of the 1960s declared prayer in public schools unconstitutional. By examining St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we can cover the story that Court ruled out Prayer in Schools emphasizing state is faithful to an arrangement of a neutral stance. The Supreme Court held June 17, 1963 wrap up that Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer as exercises in public schools is unconstitutional. The decision came on the last day of the court’s 1962-63 term. It proclaimed adjournment until October. The vote was 8 to 1, with Justice Tom C. Clark writing the majority opinion and Justice Potter Stewart delivering the balk.

We will write a custom essay sample on School Prayer & the US Constitution specifically for you
for only $16.38 $13.9/page

Order now

Justice William Joseph Brennan Jr. wrote a long agreement in the mainstream outlook as did Justices Arthur J. Goldberg and Justice John Marshall Harlan. The court ruled on two appeals openly concerning attacks on such daily prayer and Bible readings at opening exercises in public schools in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Conversely, the decision had a far- reaching effect on such practices in public schools across the land. The officially permitted inquiry concerned with the cases was whether such school recitals abuse the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Justice Clark declared that both the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases could be disposed of in the equivalent belief because they heaved the similar fundamental pronouncement under vaguely dissimilar realistic circumstances.

Clark said in the light of the history of the First Amendment and of the cases inferring and affecting its necessities, jury hold that the practices at issue and the laws requiring them are unconstitutional under the establishment clause, under the Fourteenth Amendment of US Constitution. In an earlier case, the court decided June 25, 1962, that the use in New York public schools of a nondenominational prayer which had been composed by state officials violated the First Amendment. The verdict in the New York case was 6 to 1, with Justice Stewart the lone dissenter. Justice Hugo Black was the author of the majority opinion. Justice Felix Frankfurter was ill at the time and did not participate. He later resigned and was succeeded by Justice Arthur Goldberg. Justice Byron R. White, new on the court, did not participate because he did not hear the arguments that preceded the ruling. Justice Clark wrote in 1963 decision that the place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind.

In the relationship between man and religion, the state is firmly committed to a position of neutrality. Though the application of that rule requires interpretation of a delicate sort, the rule itself is clearly and concisely stated in the words of the First Amendment. In his dissent, Justice Stewart declared it was a “fallacious oversimplification” to observe supplies of the First Amendment as launching a single constitutional standard of “separation of church and state” which can be useful perfunctorily in every case to outline the requisite limitations between government and religion. He err in the first place if they do not recognize, as a matter of history and a matter of the imperatives of the free society, that religion and government must necessarily cooperate in innumerable customs. Although, the previous court decisions have made clear that there is no constitutional bar to use of government property for religious purposes, he said that previous court decisions relating to the public schools systems were inadequate to religious instruction or proselytizing actions of religious sects by chucking the weight of secular authority in the wake of the broadcasting the religious doctrine.

He saw no danger to the government or religion in the exercises involved in the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases because they involved only a reading of the Bible single handed by remarks which otherwise constitute instruction. He felt the records of the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases were so essentially scarce as to make impossible an informed or accountable resolve of the constitutional issues offered. He didn’t agree that on the records they can say that the establishment clause has necessarily been violated. He favored sending both the Maryland and Pennsylvania cases back to the lower courts for taking of additional evidence. In the Maryland case, Mrs. Madalyn E. Murray and her 16-year-old son, identifying themselves as atheists, attacked constitutionality of a Baltimore city school board regulation. The regulation called for daily opening exercises of Bible reading and recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Objecting students are permitted to be excused from the exercises. Maryland’s court of appeals, by a 4-to-3 vote, ruled against objections by the Murrays.

The state court said the Constitution’s First amendment was not “intended to stifle all rapport between religion and government.” Counsel for the Murrays argued before the Supreme Court that the Maryland practice breached the figurative wall between church and state. The court was told that the son, William Murray, had been wounded by the practice in that he had lost caste, had been spat on, and was assailed by fellow students of William. In the Pennsylvania case, a three-judge United States district court in Philadelphia unanimously sustained protestations to a state law requiring Bible reading daily at opening exercises of the schools.(Woods) Historical perspective of the US Constitution When the Constitutional Convention initially gathered in Philadelphia in 1787, the spiritual backdrop of the states was diverse. Most states gave authorized gratitude to one recognized spiritual value. For Instance, The state of Virginia, accepted the “Episcopal Church” as representative of the state. Spiritual belief as a central part of colonial life was not in query. Somewhat, sacred matters that occured among states centered on the variations amid states’ conventional values. The political scene also turned off scripts of disunity.

The Articles of Confederation had proved insufficient for governing, and the states were aggressive over issues of taxation—namely, which should pay the costs incurred by the Revolutionary War. As the Constitutional Convention assembled, observers supposed the thought of a Constitution, much less a nation, was delicate and quickly fading. Presided by George Washington, this conference of some of the original Founders was observed as a last endeavor for unity. During the Constitutional Convention, states quarreled and self-interest thrived, to the point that no progress was being made. It was then that an aged Ben Franklin stood and said: “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor ¼ and have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of man.’

And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business “ The 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin was not one of the more religiously-minded Founding Fathers—he actually believed more in the rational views of the French Enlightenment—yet he was willing to acknowledge the importance of prayer to the political aspirations of a nation. Not a prayer bound to a denomination, like the states already had, but prayer that acknowledged God as the Creator and Sustainer, prayer that outmoded the trivial blocs of “authoritatively standard” foundations. (MacLeod 1) Landmark Cases of Supreme Court ENGEL V. VITALE (1962) “The Regent’s School Prayer” What authority, if any, does the government have when it comes religious rituals like prayers? Can a government write specific prayers for public school students to recite every day? That used to be the case in many places in America, but that was challenged and ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court.

This is one of the most important cases in the history of the Supreme Court’s church/state decisions. The State Board of Regents, which had supervisory power over New York public schools, had become concerned about an apparent decline in the morality of school students and so began a program of “moral and spiritual training” in the schools. This program included a prayer every morning which the Regents themselves had composed in a nondenominational form. Labeled the “To whom it may concern” prayer by one commentator, it stated: Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country. A group of 10 parents were joined by the ACLU in a suit against the Board of Education of New Hyde Park, New York because they had adopted that prayer. Amicus curiae briefs were filed by the American Ethical Union, the American Jewish Committee and the Synagogue Council of America.

Both the state court and the New York Court of Appeals allowed the prayer to be recited. Arguments were made on April 3rd, 1962. On June 25, 1962, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that it was unconstitutional for a government agency like a school or government agents like public school employees to require students to recite prayers. In his majority opinion, Justice Black sided substantially with the arguments of the separationists, who quoted heavily from Thomas Jefferson and made extensive use of his “wall of separation” metaphor. Particular emphasis was placed upon James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments.” According to Black, the governmentally created prayer recitation is much like the English creation of the Book of Common Prayer. It was to avoid exactly this type of relationship between government and organized religion that many early colonists came to America. In his words, the prayer was “a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause.”

Although the Regents argued that there was no compulsion on students to recite the prayer, Black observed that: Neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally neutral nor the fact that its observances on the part of students are voluntary can serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause… The Establishment clause is violated regardless of whether there is any “showing of direct government compulsion…whether those laws operate directly to coerce non-observing individuals or not.” As if he anticipated the harsh public reaction, Black attempted to point out that the decision shows great respect for religion, not hostility. It is neither sacrilegious nor anti-religious to say that each separate government in this country should stay out of the business of writing or sanctioning official prayers and leave that purely religious function to the people themselves and to those the people choose to look to for religious guidance. This case was one of the first in a series of cases, many in the 1960s, in which a variety of religious activities sponsored by the government were found to violate the Establishment Clause.

This was the first case which effectively prohibited the government from sponsoring or endorsing official prayers in schools, not Abington School District v. Schempp (from the following year) as is commonly thought. People were outraged that official prayers were no longer permitted in schools, although their anger was directed mostly at the cases which were decided in the following years. Representative of most reactions was a statement from evangelist Billy Graham, who still opposes church/state separation even today: “ This is another step toward the secularization of the United States. […] The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion”. Engel v. Vitale got the ball rolling on the separation of church and state in the latter half of the 20th century. (Cline, About: Agnosticism / Atheism) ABINGTON SCHOOL DIST. v. SCHEMPP & MURRAY v. CURLETT (1963) Since of the embargo of the First Amendment against the acting out by Congress of any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” which is made valid to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, no state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord’s Prayer be recited in the public schools of a State at the beginning of each school day – even if individual students may be excused from attending or participating in such exercises upon written request of their parents. Mutually these cases transactc with “state-approved reading of Bible passages” before classes in public schools.

Schempp was conveye to trial by a religious family who had dropped a line to the ACLU. The Schempps defied a Pennsylvania law which declared that: …at least ten verses from the Holy Bible shall be read, without comment, at the opening of each public school day. Any child shall be excused from such Bible reading, or attending such Bible reading, upon written request of his parent or guardian. A federal district court banned this. Murray was conveyed to trial by an atheist: Madalyn Murray (later O’Hair), who was functioning on the part of her sons, William and Garth. Murray defied a Baltimore statute that supplied for the “reading, without comment, of a chapter of the Holy Bible and/or of the Lord’s Prayer” before the start of classes. This act was sustained by both a state court and the Maryland Court of Appeals in the Supreme Court. Opinions for both cases were taken notice of on the 27th and 28th of February, 1963. On the 17th of June, 1963, the Court ruled 8-1 against of allowing the reciting of the Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer. Justice Clark wrote at length in his majority opinion about the history and significance of religion in America, but his finale was that the Constitution prohibits any concern of religion, that prayer is a form of religion, and that hence state- sponsored or mandated prayer in public schools cannot be permissible.

For the foremost moment, an examination was formed to assess Establishment questions ahead of courts: …what are the purpose and primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the structures of the Establishment Clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion. [emphasis added] Justice Brennan wrote in a concurring opinion that, while legislators argued that they had a secular purpose with their law, their goals could have been achieved with readings from secular document. The law, however, only specified the use of religious literature and prayer. That the Bible readings were to be made “without comment” demonstrated even further that the legislators knew that they were dealing with specifically religious literature and wanted to avoid sectarian interpretations. A violation of the Free Exercise Clause was also created by the coercive effect of the readings.

That this might demand only “minor encroachments on the First Amendment,” as argued by others, was unrelated. The proportional study of religious conviction in public schools is not forbidden but those religious adherences were not crafted with such visions in mentality. ABINGTON SCHOOL DIST. v. SCHEMPP was fundamentally a replicate of the Court’s earlier Court Decision in Engel v. Vitale, in which the Court acknowledged constitutional violations and struck the legislation. As with Engel, the Court held that the voluntary nature of religious exercises (even allowing parents to exempt their children) did not avert the statutes from violating the Establishment Clause. There was, of course, an intensely negative public reaction. In May 1964, there were more than 145 proposed constitional amendments in the House of Representatives which would permit school prayer and effectively reverse both decisions. Representative L. Mendell Rivers accused the Court of “legislating – they never adjudicate – with one eye on the Kremlin and the other on the NAACP.” Cardinal Spellman claimed that the decision struck …at the very heart of the Godly tradition in which America’s children have for so long been raised.

Although people frequently argue that Murray, who later instituted the American Atheists, was the women who got prayer put the boot of public schools and, it should be apparent that even had she never survived, the Schempp case still would have approached to the Supreme Court in some moment in time . (Cline, About: Agnosticism / Atheism) LEMON v. KURTZMAN (1971) There are a lot of people in America who would like to see the government provide funding to private, religious schools. Critics argue that this would violate the separation of church and state and sometimes the courts agree with this position. This was actually three separate cases: Lemon v. Kurtzman, Earley v. DiCenso, and Robinson v. DiCenso. These cases from Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were joined together because they all involved public assistance to private schools, some of which were religious. The final decision has become known by the first case in the list: Lemon v. Kurtzman.

Pennsylvania’s law provided for paying the salaries of teachers in parochial schools and assisting the purchasing of textbooks or other teaching supplies, as required by Pennsylvania’s Non-Public Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968. In Rhode Island, the 15% of the salaries of private school teachers was paid by the government as mandated by the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act of 1969. In both cases the teachers were teaching secular, not religious, subjects. Arguments were made on March 3rd, 1971. On June 28th, 1971, the Supreme Court unanimously found that direct government assistance to religious schools was unconstitutional. In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Burger, the Court created what has become known as the “Lemon Test” for deciding if a law is in violation of the Establishment Clause. Accepting the secular purpose attached to both statutes by the legislature, the Court did not pass on the secular effect test, inasmuch as excessive entanglement was found. This entanglement arose because the legislature …has not, and could not, provide state aid on the basis of a mere assumption that secular teachers under religious discipline can avoid conflicts.

The State must be certain, given the Religion Clauses, that subsidized teachers do not inculcate religion. Because the schools concerned were religious schools, because they were under the control of the church hierarchy, and because the primary purpose of the schools was the propagation of the faith, a …comprehensive, discriminating, and continuing state surveillance will inevitably be required to ensure that these restrictions [on religious utilization of aid] are obeyed and the First Amendment otherwise respected. This sort of relationship could lead to any number of political problems in areas in which a large numbers of students attend religious schools — just the sort of situation that the First Amendment was designed to prevent. Chief Justice Burger further wrote: Every analysis in this area must begin with consideration of the cumulative criteria developed by the Court over many years. First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances or inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster and excessive government Entanglement with religion.

The “excessive entanglement” criteria was a new addition to the other two, which had already been created in the Abington Township School District v. Schempp. The two statutes in question were held to be in violation of this third criteria. This decision is especially significant because it created the aforementioned Lemon Test for evaluating laws relating to the relationship between church and state. It is a benchmark for all later decisions regarding religious liberty – some people love it, some hate it. (Cline, About: Agnosticism / Atheism) Court Tests Applied to Legislation Affecting Religion The Lemon Test Founded on the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Court will regulate a practice unconstitutional if: 1) It lacks any secular purpose. That is, if the practice lacks any non-religious purpose. 2) The practice either promotes or inhibits religion. 3) Or the practice excessively (in the Court’s opinion) involves government with a religion.

The Coercion Test Based on the 1992 case of Lee v. Weisman, the religious practice is examined to see to what extent, if any, pressure is applied to force or coerce individuals to participate. The Court has defined that “Unconstitutional coercion occurs when: (1) the government directs (2) a formal religious exercise (3) in such a way as to oblige the participation of objectors.” The Endorsement Test Finally, drawing from the 1989 case of Allegheny County v. ACLU, the practice is examined to see if it unconstitutionally endorses religion by conveying “a message that religion is ‘favored,’ ‘preferred,’ or ‘promoted’ over other beliefs.” The Establishment Clause and the “Lemon” Tests Based on its 1971 decision in the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman, the Supreme Court came up with the three “tests” of any religion-related law.

The “Lemon” test is still used by the Court today to determine whether or not the law meets constitutional muster. In order for any law to satisfy the First Amendment, it: 1) Must have some secular, or non-religious legal purpose; 2) must neither promote or inhibit the practice of religion; and 3) must not must not foster “an excessive government entanglement with religion.” In its Lemon decision, the Supreme Court concludes, “[i]f a statute violates any of these three principles, it must be struck down under the Establishment Clause.” Lemon Test v. The Ten Commandments When viewed against the “Lemon” tests, the first four of the Ten Commandments would fail because they have no secular, or non-religious legal purpose. Instead, they concern only specific religious duties expected of believers. 1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. 4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. However, commandments 5-10, taken by themselves, make no mention of religion at all. Instead, they are all rules of proper conduct by people in society and are thus completely secular in nature. 5. Honour thy father and thy mother. 6. Thou shalt not kill. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8. Thou shalt not steal. 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. But, the Aderholt Amendment did not rule out the first four commandments from contemplation. The 284 U.S. Representatives vote for it. They drew from the expressions of the people who engraved the Constitution. (US Govt. Info, Court Tests) Separation of Church and State “Separation of church and state” is not even stated in the U.S. Constitution, since its drafters did not perceive a dichotomy between their religious beliefs and the manuscript that constructed their Republic.

However “separation of church and state” came primarily from two sources, a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of ministers and from the U.S. Supreme Court case, Everson v. Board of Education. The Danbury Letter. Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous phrase “separation of church and state” in a letter to the Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. He was responding to the letter they had written, part of which said: “Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty—That Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals—That no man ought to suffer in Name, person or effects on account of his religious Opinions—That the legitimate Power of civil Government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.” Jefferson’s response to their letter was amicable.

He said, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions [emphasis added], I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.” Jefferson’s declaration of “a wall of separation between Church and State” expressed his opinion that the federal government did not have the authority to “prescribe even occasional performances of [religious] devotion.”

He did not question the validity of religious belief, but he constructed his “wall” to protect religious freedom of conscience from the potential of one federally recognized religion. His fears were well founded. In his Inaugural Address of the previous year, Jefferson had noted that America had “banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered.” Clearly, Jefferson decried the federal domination of religious freedom through one established church. In addition, when Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, the Pamphlet of University Regulations included two sections that read: No compulsory attendance on prayers or services. Each denomination to send a clergyman to conduct daily prayers and Sunday service for two weeks. Was this a man who would have sanctioned the complete removal of any form of prayer from the public schools of America? Obviously, Thomas Jefferson’s views on church and state have been grossly distorted.

Everson v. Board of Education. The second notable mention of the phrase “separation of church and state” came in the 1947 U.S. Supreme Court case, Everson v. Board of Education. The plaintiff argued the New Jersey law that reimbursed parents for the cost of bus transportation—to public and religious schools—violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court said that it did not. In the majority opinion, however, Justice Hugo Black used language to set the stage for damaging rulings in the future. He wrote that the Establishment Clause created a “complete separation between the state and religion.” Jefferson’s letter was written 10 years after the ratification of the First Amendment, yet Black relied upon his own interpretation of Jefferson’s words, rather than on the text of the First Amendment, to set the Everson precedent for future rulings. Twentieth-Century Cases Twentieth-century courts, based predominately on Jefferson’s letter and on the precedent Justice Black created in Everson, have argued that the Constitution intended to separate all religious expression from public life.

Yet that ignores the textual history and the original intent of James Madison, the author of these religion clauses. It also ignores the broad, historical context. The men who hammered out each section of the Constitution also believed in the importance of daily prayer. The Establishment Clause has often been misinterpreted to mean that any link to religion is “establishing” religion. One of the causes of this is a simple alteration of the wording in the First Amendment. The clause reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It does not read, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” as it is often misquoted. If the article is read as “the,” then it refers to establishment of all religion in general. If the article is “an,” then it clearly refers to a specific religion or denomination—an interpretation backed up by historical records. Realizing that the amendment uses the word “an” helps clarify the meaning of the Framers.

So, rather than attempting to separate themselves from religious belief and expression, the Framers were trying to keep one denomination from being favored over another. The twentieth-century cases pertinent to the issue of school prayer do not recognize those differences. They have clearly been built upon the framework created by Everson, as summaries of key cases demonstrate: McCollum v. Board of Education (1948). It is a violation of the Establishment Clause for Jewish, Catholic or Protestant religious leaders to lead optional/voluntary religious instruction in public school buildings. Engel v. Vitale (1962). The daily recitation of prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. Abington School District v. Schempp (1963). Daily school-directed reading of the Bible (without comment), and daily recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, violates the Establishment Clause when performed in public schools. Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971). This ruling created the three-part “Lemon test” for determining violations of the Establishment Clause. Stone v. Graham (1980).

The Court struck down a state law requiring public schools to post the Ten Commandments (with a notice of “secular application”). Wallace v. Jaffree (1985). A state law requiring a moment of “meditation or voluntary prayer” was struck down as an establishment of religion because the intent of the legislature was deemed to be religious rather than secular. By Justice Stevens scripting the mass judgment, the Court decided 6-3 that the Alabama law providing for a moment of silence was unconstitutional. The decision underlined that inspection the Supreme Court apply while assessing the constitutionality of government actions. Pretty than allow the argument that the inclusion of “or voluntary prayer” was a slight accumulation with a bit realistic implication, the goal of the legislature that approved it was adequate to display the unconstitutionality of prayer. Lee v. Weisman (1992). A private, nongovernmental individual (in this case a rabbi) at a public school graduation cannot offer prayer. Student rights were infringed upon, according to the Court, because the important nature of the event in effect compelled them to attend graduation.

That, in effect, compelled students to bow their heads and be respectful during the prayer, which the Court ruled was a constitutional violation. Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe (2000). The Court struck down a school district’s policy that allowed an elected student chaplain to open football games with a public prayer. Even though high school football games are purely voluntary activities, the Court concluded that the policy “establishes an improper majoritarian election on religion, and unquestionably has the purpose and creates the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.” Each of those cases paid attention on the Establishment Clause to the damage of the Free Exercise Clause. That has been the trend of the twentieth century. The courts have too quickly forgotten that the Constitution explicitly protects the free exercise of religion. (MacLeod 2-3) “The earlier cases were more black and white, and the later ones were more grey in terms of the issues: Stink of Unfairness in Later School Prayer Cases” The era of 1980’s instigated with a diktat not in favor of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms, and by 1985 even so much as one minute of silence, for meditation or prayer by students, turned out to be inviolable; even though firm decisions delivered by the supreme court (see Engel v. Vitale. Abington School District v. Schempp, Lemon v. Kurtzman). Engel v. Vitale case was one of the first in its origin in which a range of holy conducts backed by the government were found to defy the Establishment Clause.

This was the first case which successfully forbidden the government from sponsoring or endorsing official prayers in schools, not Abington School District v. Schempp which is frequently considered. Public were irritated that official prayers were no longer legalized in schools, although their anger was directed mostly at the cases which were decided in the following years. Delegates of most reactions were a declaration from evangelist Billy Graham, who still refuses to accept church/state separation yet at present. Abington School District v. Schempp case was fundamentally a consequence of the Court’s earlier Court Decision in Engel v. Vitale, in which the Court recognized constitutional violations and struck the legislation. As with Engel, the Court held that the voluntary nature of religious exercises. There was, of course, an hugely harmful public behaviour. In May 1964, there were more than 145 proposed constitional amendments in the House of Representatives which would permit school prayer and successfully overturn both verdicts.

Lemon v. Kurtzman decision was particularly noteworthy because it created the aforementioned Lemon Test for assessing laws relating to the relationship between church and state. It is a yardstick for all later decisions concerning religion freedom. By the turn of the 21st century the extirpation of faithfulness from government schools had been merged, and the mugging on religion in public life fanned out into society at large. Proclamations were subjected exalting vice and suppressing virtue. The year2004 saw the outrage of despair, elevated to a “full right” under the Constitution, even as God’s Ten Commandments were driven off public property. In the supreme court of Alabama the Chief Justice dared to resist, and was stripped of his office. The judicial oligarchy forced all these changes in the name of the Constitution.

The school cases were precise to the establishment clause of the First Amendment. So far the Amendment has a complimentary implement of religion clause, which the politburo of nine has elected to downplay or minimally ignorant. For instance, the Lee v. Weisman decision failed to reverse the standards established by the Court in Lemon. Instead, this ruling extended the prohibition of school prayer to graduation ceremonies and refused to accept the idea that a student would not be harmed by standing during the prayer without sharing the message contained in the prayer. Similarly, Upon reading Santa Fe, Ingebretsen, and Clear Creek II, it seems, with regard to the Establishment Clause, that panels of our court pay little regard to previous jurisprudence. One might think that a specific holding of a prior opinion is no more than a puff of wind. Santa Fe disregards Clear Creek II today. The next panel can disregard Santa Fe tomorrow. When judges can pick and choose without the constraints imposed by precedent, the public is left stranded, vulnerable to liability, helplessly dependent on the panel it draws. We could fulfill our constitutional and professional duty to the public, vote this case en banc, and be of a single voice. But when our court refuses to rehear en banc cases such as Santa Fe, this unrestrained decision-making goes uncorrected.

This failure to act, in turn, allows individual members of our court to continue to engage in an activity that has all the appearance of simply advancing personal philosophy. The Alito Nomination: Chief Justice John Roberts and future Justice Samuel Alito probably mean a more conservative Supreme Court. But it probably doesn’t mean a stream of clear-cut conservative breakthroughs on abortion, affirmative action, school prayer or even flag burning. The future of constitutional rulings on those and other hot button issues will be determined by two words: Anthony Kennedy. That’s an oversimplification of course. But it seems likely that on a number of issues, there will be four conservatives, four liberals and there will be Justice Kennedy. Unlike Roberts and Alito who went to lengths to leave the world guessing about how they will rule, we know a lot about what Anthony Kennedyism means because he has already faced these issues as a justice. It means Roe v. Wade isn’t overturned, but partial birth abortion is banned and other abortion restrictions are accepted. Affirmative action is more constrained but not ruled unconstitutional. State-sponsored displays of religious symbols are more likely to be tolerated, but the ban on school prayer is not overturned.

Burning a U.S. flag to protest, and viewing pornography on the internet continue to be constitutionally protected activities but McCain-Feingold- type regulations on political campaigning are vulnerable to First Amendment challenges. On the first day of the Alito hearings, Sen. Joseph Biden, D.-Del., said that the “elephant in the room‿ was the question of whether Alito would cast the decisive votes to reject the direction in which the Supreme Court has been going for the past 70 years. Over the next two and a half days, Alito endorsed some of those precedents (Brown v. the school board, one-person, one-vote, and the Constitutional right of privacy, at least as far as the contraception cases.) Alito also danced artfully around senators’ efforts to commit himself on some other precedents, most especially relating to abortion. This is the current state-of-the-art strategy for confirmation, and it appears to be working well. The intensity of the pro-choicer campaign against Alito leads one to forget that there are still five votes to affirm Roe, and that on many of the issues liberals care about, Kennedy has affirmed the basic Warren Court breakthrough rulings.

Depending on the the health of Kennedy and the four liberals, and the outcome of future elections, the stakes simply may not be as high as Biden’s elephant’s eye. (That was an elaborate conflation of the previous reference with a corny lyric from “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” Ask your parents.”) If Roberts and Alito turn out to be solid allies of Scalia and Thomas, if the liberals stay together and stay well, and if Kennedy sticks with his established positions, that means: •Roe v. Wade is not overturned. Kennedy and the four liberals have already rejected that idea. But the congressional ban partial birth abortion is upheld. Kennedy already voted to uphold it once before. And other restrictions on abortion rights will be accepted. •Affirmative action is not ruled unconstitutional at its core. Scalia and Thomas have indicated a willingness to strike it down completely. But Kennedy declined to join those opinions. On the other hand, colleges and universities will have an even rougher time figuring out how to construct a constitutional affirmative action program.

In 2003, Justice O’Connor joined the four liberals in upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions program, which claimed to have found a way to act affirmatively without explicit quotas or race-based point systems. Kennedy and the conservatives formed a four-member bloc that didn’t buy it. Quite likely, if a similar question makes it to the court, Kennedy will cast the decisive vote. •State-sponsored displays of religious symbols, like the 10 commandments, are more likely to be tolerated when Kennedy’s becomes the key swing vote. But the breakthrough Warren-era decision, banning school prayer, will not be overturned. Kennedy has already endorsed that precedent. •Kennedy’s free speech jurisprudence has a strong libertarian streak. That has helped liberals construe the burning of a U.S. flag by protesters and viewing pornography on the internet as constitutionally protected activities under the First Amendment. But Kennedy’s libertarian streak made him leery of McCain-Feingold-type regulations that restrict political advertising in the name of campaign finance reform.

The next time those issues roll around, Kennedy may provide the fifth vote necessary to strike down those regulations on First Amendment grounds. ( Black and Tice 1-2) Arguments against and in favor of School Prayer: School Prayer was a chief center of attention of Darrell Scott’s (father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School Shootings in Littleton, Colorado) testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in a exceptional session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, May 27, 1999. What Darrell Scott said to our national leaders regarding school prayer was utterly factual and enlightening for all of us. The following is a portion of the transcript: “I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. This was written before I knew I would be speaking here today. Your laws ignore our deepest needs, Your words are empty air. You’ve stripped away our heritage, You’ve outlawed simple prayer. Now gunshots fill our classrooms, And precious children die. You seek for answers everywhere, And ask the question, “Why?” You regulate restrictive laws, Through legislative creed.

And yet you fail to understand, That God is what we need! Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual influences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in doing so, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs, politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to the erosion of our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors.

No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts. Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers. The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched! We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored. We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God! As my son, Craig, lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain.

Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred regard for legislation that protects your God-given right to communicate with Him.” (Popular Issues, School Prayer) There is always a state of war between secular humanists and groups like the Christian Coalition are concerning prayer in high schools and the victim is the innocent average high school kid. Each moment in time the argument is reawakened & it concludes in a deadlock. The supporters of prayers say it will add to the broadmindedness in schools, as children be taught of diverse religions & will convey to surface the special inquiries kids have about God and religion and allow them to investigate for their own conviction. The majority of them believe that prayers will lend a hand overturning the moral degradation of the society. Contrarily, Secularists shapes the public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Religion is private, and schools are public, both of the things couldn’t be intermixable.

Whilst the sunup members of the clergy supports prayer during the Constitutional Convention and in ordinances governing education, the U.S. Supreme Court has vividly transferred their original premises. Some legal scholars and special interest groups have built upon those precedents, creating other rationalizations for limiting religious expression in America’s public schools. The mainly widespread squabble of such individuals is that the government has a responsibility to be neutral, so that no child is offended by the religious speech of another. This is erroneous because the issue cannot be neutral. Elimination of religious expression for the atheist will offend the child who believes in God. So, the schools must choose. Since 1962, they have sided with the small, nonreligious minority of atheists which, as recent Newsweek poll shows, consists of only 4 percent of the population. By contrast, 94 percent of respondents to that same survey professed a religious faith, and 61 percent said that they agreed with the statement that “religion is very important” in their lives. If free religious expression in the form of prayers is forbidden, school officials are, at the very least, teaching children that public recognition of God is not as significant as the things the schools can argue.

It looks irrational that public schools permits open discussion about sexism but do not permit unwrap conversation regarding God. The courts have elapsed that schools can allocate free religious expressions devoid of implementing any meticulous category of spiritual consideration. Another dilemma is School prayer “polarizes citizens around a religious axis.” so far the First Amendment was printed to evade the bickers that might effect in the midst of values. Not tolerating prayer has done more to polarize citizens than almost any other issue in American history. Allowing prayer would put decision-making back in the hands of parents and local school boards, where it once rested. Those local boards could position guiding principles that would permit students who object to all prayer or some prayers not to chip in, just as many religious students have opted out of sex education classes at school place. That would obviously revere the rights of the minority, without infringing upon the rights of the majority. Local school boards would also be sheltered by the constitutional “time/place/manner” restrictions that apply equally to religious and nonreligious dialogue. In due course, a reinstatement of liberated expression to local public schools would unite, not polarize, citizens.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment presents that government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Because public schools are government funded, prayer led by school officials or incorporated into the school routine amounts to government-established religion. Prayer is school is already legal. Students are already allowed to pray on a voluntary basis (in a non-disruptive way) so formal school prayer is unnecessary. School prayer may lead to intolerance. Public prayer will emphasize religious diversity of which students may have been oblivious. Those students who withdraw from school prayer or dissent against it may be detested. School prayer is intrinsically coercive and cannot be implemented in a way that is truthfully intentional.

The public school system is created for all students and supported by all taxpayers. It should therefore remain neutral on religious issues over which students and taxpayers will differ. Since no formal school prayer could simultaneously honor and uphold the tenets of the many religions practiced in the U.S., as well as various denominational differences, prayer is better left in the home and religious institution of the individual student’s choice. An associated squabble is that school prayer assumes the function of parents and religious institutions who wish to offer religious instruction in keeping with their possessive viewpoints. (All About History, School Prayers)

Ishmael Jaffree alleged after Supreme Court decision (1985): ”For me, the battle is over. But prayer will go on in the schools. It just won’t go on in any of my children’s classes.” (NY Times B5:1) Works Cited Edward F. Woods. “Court Outlaws Prayer in Schools”.(1963) St. Louis Post-Dispatch Laurel MacLeod. “School Prayer And Religious Liberty: A Constitutional Perspective”. (2000) < http://www.cwfa.org/images/content/cwaicon.ico> Frohnmayer, John. “Out of Tune: Listening to the First Amendment. Golden, Colorado” North American Press, (1995). Austin Cline. “Prayers in Public Schools”. About: Agnosticism / Atheism. <http;//usgovtifo.about.com> “Church and State: How the Court Decides”. US Govt. Info/ Resources <http;//usgovtifo.about.com> “School Prayer Case Law- Absolute Necessity”. Popular Issues <“http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org”> Choper, Jesse H. “Securing Religious Liberty: Principles for Judicial Interpretation of the Religious Clauses”. University of Chicago Press. (1995). Erick Black and DJ Tice. “The Big Question: Who was the elephant NOT in the room”? Star Tribune (2006) <http://www.startribune.com/blogs/bigquestion/?m=200601> “Arguments Against School Prayer”. All About History < http://www.allabouthistory.org”> Ishmael Jaffree. “Quotation of the Day”. The New York Times. B5:1, Published: June 5, 1985.

How to cite this page

Choose cite format:

School Prayer & the US Constitution. (2017, May 07). Retrieved from http://popups.pro/school-prayer-the-us-constitution-essay

We will write a custom essay sample on
School Prayer & the US Constitution specifically for you

for only $16.38 $13.9/page
Order now

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.

Our customer support team is available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm EST. If you contact us after hours, we'll get back to you in 24 hours or less.

By clicking "Send Message", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
No results found for “ image
Try Our service