The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment

First Amendment

Does school prayer violate the Establishment Clause?

School-sponsored prayer in public schools violates the Establishment Clause, but students praying on their own does not. In other words, teacher-led prayer constitutes an impermissible endorsement of religion, but student-led prayer very well may not pose an Establishment Clause problem. In the early 1960s the U.S. Supreme Court in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) ruled that mandatory, teacher-led prayer and reading of Bible verses violated the Establishment Clause. The Court focused on the coercive pressure placed upon children who did not conform to the majority (Christian) religion.


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