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Religion In The Public Arena Essay

1684 words - 7 pages

When the Founding Fathers drew up the Constitution by which United States citizens are governed today, it is doubtful they had any idea freedom of religion would be so challenged as it is today. After years of religious oppression hundreds fled to North America where they hoped to enjoy the freedom to worship as they pleased. When the First Amendment was added to the Constitution, it is also doubtful there would be such controversy over church and state. The people understood the First Amendment would protect them and give them the right to worship without interference from the government or others of different beliefs. They prayed in schools and discussed Christian beliefs openly. No way could they conceive the literal meaning of the First Amendment. They only thought it was to keep government from applying demands concerning religion from them. They were so immersed in Christianity, never would they imagine someone would challenge prayers or religion-related issues to come under such scrutiny as it is today.Today in America there are serious concerns about issues dealing with church and state. The main issue, the separation of church and state within the United States, predominantly deals with how Americans respond to the First Amendment. Throughout history, there have been many court cases dealing with separation of church and state. The Engel vs. Vitale, one of the better-known court cases, specifically challenges the law as outlined in the First Amendment and will be referenced further. The First Amendment is of great importance to the American people because it entails not only the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy, but speaks to our emotions and senses as well.The court case of Engel versus Vitale made its way through the court system reaching all the way to the Supreme Court whose verdict overruled the district court. This case dealt with the public school district of New Hyde Park, New York. The complaint in this case was that school officials were allowing a school prayer in classrooms at the beginning of the day. The problem in question is how school systems enforce some laws, but yet attempts to circumvent the First Amendment, that of separation of church and state. The First Amendment is being violated by school administrators allowing teachers to direct prayers, religious classes, give moments of silence, and even present Christmas programs in our public schools.The Supreme Court case of 1962, Engel versus Vitale was a case about whether prayer should or should not be allowed in public schools. The argument is drawn from the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The school district's Board of Directors in New Hyde County, New York held firm to their tradition of having the Regent Prayer recited by the faculty and students at the beginning of each day which follows: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee, and we beg thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country (370 U.S. Sec. 421)."Ten pupils from this...

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