Dr. Rebecca Bliss
Should Prayer be allowed in Public Schools?
Should prayer be allowed in Public schools? This is a very controversial topic in Ohio right now. There are many different opinions, varying answers, and ways to approach this issue. This issue has been the focus of many controversial debates. United States has a public educational system that is quick to take away religion or any actions related to it. It is so hard to bring back religion into school because of the huge space in between school and religion. Many attempted over time to use the power of the First Amendment which gives you the Right of freedom and speech to give grounds for prayer in school. The Amendment does protect religion from the government interrupting it, but the U.S. Supreme court has taken away the freedom of prayer in schools, because it breaks the separation of the church and state. Although many people feel prayer in public schools violates the First Amendment, there are ways students can pray without causing legal problems for the school.
The Separation of Church and state is one of the underlying truths of the US government. It means that the state should stay out of the church’s business, and the state should stay out of out of the church’s. “The phrase wall of separation between the church and the state was originally coined Thomas Jefferson in a letter that he wrote to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802 ( Separation of Church and State).” His goal was to calm down the fears that the Baptists had so he made clear that new wall would protect them. The most important concept to remember is that government cannot make any laws that would favor one’s religion over another’s because the government can’t have anything to do with religion and one’s personal life.
The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (LII Staff, 1).” The Establishment cause put limits for government not to interact or endorse religion which does have important implications for religious speech and rituals in public schools. This Amendment doesn’t really say that religion may not be taught in public schools. Religion is actually incorporated into many classes that high school students take such as ethics, science, literature. “Prayer and Bible-reading have long been excluded from the public schools. Engel v. Vitale (1962) and School Dist. V. Schempp (1963) (NCAC, 2).”
Many have different opinions on how this case should be solved. This difference in opinion causes fighting between both sides. Many believe that prayer should return to school. On a debate website that shows percent’s of how many agree to turning prayer back into school, and how many don’t want it to return gives a little feedback from each person of why they choose the choice they did. About 69% voted yes, and about 31% voted no. Some of the responses for yes include, “If the child taught about God or religion at home or in school then this could be harmful to the child and also to the public. If anything, we already have prayer in school with the Pledge of Allegiance”, “This is a problem going on in my school now. I believe that prayer should NOT be mandatory, but it should be allowed” (Debate). Some responses from the ones who said no include, “I say it should not, because if it was then it would take away school time and then they will get bad grades.” “Since the First Amendment has given us religious freedom that simply proposes we can practice whatever religion we want in our freedom full country of AMERICA! (Debate).” Tension is caused between sides because of variation in opinion which has an effect on many.
Parents, teachers, government, students, and community are all affected by this issue. Parents want what is best for their students in school and become involved in issues like these because of student’s freedom. There are many parents who say if you think prayer is so important than why not just pray at home or keep your child out of school. Students do have freedom to many things including saying a quiet prayer to themselves and decide upon the actual content of their prayer in any public place including school. Even judges have decided that students should be able to pray when and where they want to. Teachers are one of the biggest parts of this issue. They are held accountable for the students they have in class during their restricted times. If a student in a public school would pray out loud and disrupted others student’s, the teacher would be in trouble for letting this happen and would be involved in the consequences. On January 28, 2018, a girl Kaylee Cole from Louisiana public school made clear that prayer every morning wouldn’t stop her getting to her point. Every day the school started with announcing birthdays, announcement’s, the Pledge of Allegiance, and last but not least the Lord’s prayer. She suddenly sits down, though she was raised a Christian but not an agnostic. Every other child that is standing is staring at her. Cole believes that is not how she should start her day, if she would’ve wanted to start with prayer she would’ve went to a private school that offers it. The day after Christmas sent shockwaves through the whole community after what had happened. When Cole goes back to school and the announcements come on again, and the pledge is said but there is no prayer everyone was in deep shock. The time came that her and her mother had enough of prayer being in a public school. They filled a lawsuit that said that there is an official promotion of religion in a school with students of different backgrounds. After that prayer in that school was never heard of again. In this particular issue teachers, some students, principal, and the superintendent was involved. Government is said to not be allowed into religious issues whatsoever, but when an issue like this happens it affects everyone not only the government, but the community. The community is a big part of the school. The community are the people who vote for president, issues, and are parents of the students who are in schools. There are even people from the community that volunteer in schools, so they are also involved. When there is an issue like this they bring it up into the whole community to give ideas, and feedback, and maybe even vote for a solution that will fix the problem.
As said before this has been a problem since the 1800’s. The First Amendment does give the right of religion to everyone without the government to be involved. It got like this ever since people had opinions of how to behave and believe different religions. Diversities of religion are a big part of this. Some students can come into schools and see others praying out loud, and they might feel uncomfortable, so it will cause a problem. There are a couple pros and cons that can help understand the issue a little more. Those who favor the return of prayer to public schools argue that if we would ban prayer in school it would ban freedom of religion and it would force them to act like the rest. Another pro that is stated is School prayer would address the needs of the whole person. Schools must do more than train children’s minds academically. They must also nurture their souls and reinforce the values taught at home and in the community ( Pros and Cons of Prayer in School).” There are many cons of frequent arguments against prayer in school such as, School prayer violates the separation of church, and state, and schools are intended for education not religious concepts to be shown or taught. To make our nation work we need to balance both opinions so that they work for everyone.
Benefits come for those who don’t believe in prayer or God since prayer in public schools is not allowed to be said out loud. Those parents, students who don’t believe get the benefit of not having to deal with it every day. Losses come to those who want prayer to be the first fundamental of school, and who think prayer will bring benefits to them, such as students and parents who want prayer. Teachers loss in a way, because it doesn’t matter if they believe or don’t they are held accountable for the actions of their students. If a student goes against schools rules the teacher will be in trouble from other kids and parents who disagree with prayer.
Therefore, solutions to this issue can be made in many ways. Success in students’ lives is always will be forever a goal in all schools. Whomever it may be parents, teachers, principals, all want student to be comfortable in the environment of their school. Parent teacher conferences serve as a big benefit for this. Many problems that students have in school are resolved when a parent comes and talks with the teacher. If parents would vote each for their own child if they wanted prayer in school or not, and votes would be counted up, a solution could be made that pleases both sides. Many other schools whether private or not have different clubs after schools that pertain to different kids interests. A religious club is always a choice that can be brought up to please the needs of those who want prayer in school. Meeting after school with other students that have the same opinion as you can help a lot. Lastly, there are many schools that are not public, but are private that can meet the families wants. Private schools usually offer religion classes every day, including prayer and going to chapel once a week. They can even be more beneficial to some students more than others. When an issue like this is addressed in the community everyone gets involved and wants what is best for their students. You may sometimes not get the answer you were hoping to get, but you have to respect it.
Cline, Austin. “Is Prayers Allowed in School?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/are-prayers-allowed-in-school-249676. Accessed 12 September. 2018.
LII Staff. “First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 10 Oct. 2017, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment. Accessed 23 September. 2018.
Linder, Douglas. “Prayer in the Public Schools and the Establishment Clause.” The Trial of Galileo: An Account, law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/trials/conlaw/schoolprayer.html. Accessed 12 September. 2018.
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“Prayer in School Debate.” AllAboutHistory.org, www.allabouthistory.org/prayer-in-school-debate-faq.htm. Accessed 12 September. 2018.
“Pros and Cons of Prayer in School.” AllAboutHistory.org, www.allabouthistory.org/pros-and-cons-of-prayer-in-school-faq.htm. Accessed 12 September. 2018.
“Separation Of Church And State.” AllAboutHistory.org, www.allabouthistory.org/separation-of-church-and-state.htm. Accessed 23 September. 2018.
“Should Prayer Be Allowed in School?” Debate.org, www.debate.org/opinions/should-prayer-be-allowed-in-school. Accessed 12 September. 2018.
Simon, Mallory. “What Happened When a Student Sued over Prayer.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Jan. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/01/23/us/louisiana-school-prayer-lawsuit/index.html. Accessed September 12. 2018.