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School Prayer Debate

written by: Lady Lit•edited by: Trent Lorcher•updated: 11/13/2008

This article examines the controversy surrounding prayer in public schools.

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    In recent years, there has been much flap over student-sanctioned prayer in the public school setting. People who are opposed to prayer in school refer to separation of church and state as established by the country’s forefathers. The other side of the debate, those who support prayer in public school, believe that school prayer should not be banned.

    As each side has strong opinions, there is going to be some heated disagreements that result. Both proponents and opponents of the issue have voiced their concerns, and the United States Supreme Count has also issued rulings pertaining to school prayer, the most notable being Engel vs. Vitale.

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    The Beginnings

    The public was stunned by the 1962 Engel v, Vitale ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited schools from making a public invocation to begin the school day. With this landmark ruling, the public as well as political figures began looking for ways to restore school prayer.

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    Time for Silent Reflection

    Even though schools cannot promote school prayer or make a school-wide public display of a religious invocation, students are not prohibited from praying. Some schools allow the students to begin their day with a moment of silence or a moment of reflection, and this allows students to pray silently to themselves. The advantages of the moment of silence is that it is not required on the parts of students, and they can use their moment of silence to do whatever they wish.

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    Graduation and Extracurricular Events

    Some districts have banned school prayer at graduation and extracurricular events, but there has not been any rulings that have tremendously impacted prayers at these events. There have been some state rulings that have influenced whether or not school districts in a particular state will allow prayer at graduation ceremonies and extracurricular events.

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    A Correlation

    With the absenteeism of school prayer in public schools, there most certainly has been an increase in school violence and a need for such “Zero Tolerance” laws. Not only has there been an increase in violence, but there seems to have been a decrease in student learning, even as such legislation as No Child Left Behind places more stringent requirements on schools.