Religion And Prayer Must Not Be Permitted In Public School

1978 words - 8 pages

      Early American colonists anticipated a country full of freedoms and opportunities. As the new government was beginning to develop, the Founders took into consideration the restrictions placed on them and their fellow immigrants in their former home lands. One difficulty the colonists encountered back in Europe was the inability to practice a desired religion or not to practice one at all. Since the newly formed country was made up of people from more than one religious background, the government had to come up with a way to accommodate all of its citizens. Understanding the country's diversity, the writers of the Constitution of the United States of America included in the First Amendment the words, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise therof . . ." (Alley, 24). The two parts of the religious freedom declaration became known as the Free Exercise Clause, which allows for religious expression, and the Establishment Clause, which protects citizens from state-imposed religion. To ensure that the government could not interfere with religious establishments, the American government mandated a more precise interpretation of the religious clauses, which commonly became known as secularism, or complete separation of the church and the government.

 

Secularism is the foundation underlying the issue of the role of prayer in the public school system. Due to the Establishment Clause, which protects Americans from state imposed religion; the role of prayer in the public schools is considered unco nstitutional. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor professed, "In my view, however, the principle underlying the Establishment Clause is that government may not make a person's religious belief relevant to his or her standing in the political c ommunity by conveying a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred" (O'Connor 2). Since the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment protects the citizens from being influenced or offended by government sponsor ed religion, prayer in the public school system is intolerable. Accordingly, the idea of secularism was first proposed by James Madison in the religion clauses, because he wanted to avoid any sort of political influence on religious institutions (Alley 1 8). As a result of Madison's initiation of the concept of secularism, the role of religion in government institutions such as schools is now considered unconstitutional.

 

In defiance to the Court's separation of church and state ruling, many public school districts persist to support the exercise of prayer. Numerous cases have arisen reflecting the opposing views on the role of prayer, including the 1962 precedent setting court case Engel v. Vitale. The debate occurred because the children of a New York public school district were required to recite the following lines every morning: "Almighty God, we...

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