School Prayer Essay

1615 words - 6 pages

Religion is a very important issue in today's world. It doesn't matter if you're atheist or Catholic, open-minded or bigoted; religion has always been of major importance, and always will be.One of the many debatable issues relating to religion is school prayer. The diverse group of people opposed to school prayer realize how important learning about other religions is to children, but school is not the right place for these teachings. I'm not about to say, as many people believe, that a child praying in school is wrong; far from it.Protecting students' religious rights shouldn't be confused with protecting school-sponsored religious exercises or rituals, such as teacher-led prayer. The Supreme Court showed this recently in a case against the state of Texas, which claimed student-led prayer is private speech; the Supreme Court ruled that it isn't, especially when school officials pick students leaders and provide a public address system. Under these circumstances, school prayer is discriminatory, coercive, and unconstitutional.The root of the school prayer conflict is the First Amendment, in which it states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Clearly, many opinions can be drawn. However, James Madison stated, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established." Prayer has been common practice for most of the past two centuries; all kids were required to start the school day by reciting the Lord's Prayer. As late as the 1950's, at least 40% of American schools held regular Bible readings. Since these daily events take place during school where kids are required to attend, they are blatantly unconstitutional acts, and the Supreme Court has since taken steps to solve this problem. In the 1948 case of McCollum v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the Establishment Clause for religious leaders to lead optional or voluntary religious instruction in public school buildings. In the 1963 case of the Abington School District v. Schempp, it was stated that daily school-directed reading of the Bible without comment and daily recitation of the Lord's Prayer violate the Establishment Clause when performed in public schools. The 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman created the "Lemon Test" for determining violations of the Establishment Clause; to avoid a violation, an activity must have a secular purpose, not advance or inhibit religion, and not cause excessive entanglement between the government and religion. It was on these grounds that in the 1985 case of Wallace v. Jaffree, the Supreme Court ruled a law requiring a moment of "meditation or voluntary prayer" unconstitutional, in that the intent of the legislature was deemed to be religious, rather than secular. Many people in support of school prayer wish to return to the faith of the Founding Fathers, but those attempts...

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