Prayer in School
Can a public school teacher lead students in prayer?
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Hello, and welcome to Legal Lad’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life. I’m your host, Adam Freedman.
But first, your daily dose of legalese: This podcast does not create an attorney-client relationship with any listener. In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer. In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.
Today’s episode concerns School Prayer. Mary writes: “At my children's high school there is a teacher/coach that leads prayer….. He also has a link from the school's Web page to his own personal Web page that endorses his religious beliefs. Is this a violation of the establishment clause?”
That, Mary, is an excellent question.
The Establishment Clause is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”This innocent sounding provision has been a constant source of controversy and litigation almost from the beginning.
Those Anti-Establishment Founders
For starters – what did they mean by “an establishment of religion?” An established church was a concept well known to the Founding Fathers – most notably in the form of England’s established Anglican Church. Historical evidence suggests that the framers used the term “establishment of religion” (rather than “established church) so as to prohibit government aid to churches that may fall short of establishing a national religion.
No Sects, Please!
The founders looked back in horror at the religious wars that had raged across Europe during the previous century. James Madison, often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution” said that the key to religious freedom, “consists in . . . a multiplicity of sects.”