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Chapter 2 – Religion and the Public Schools

Chapter Notes

Fourteenth Amendment—focuses on the rights and privileges of citizens of the United States.

First Amendment—serves as the basis for delineating certain individual religious rights.

Establishment Clause—prohibits state from passing laws that aid a religion or show preference of one

religion over another.

Free exercise clause—prohibits state from interfering with individual religious freedoms.

School-Sponsored Prayer

1. 1960s—U.S. Supreme Court—Engle Case-ordered nondenominational prayer to be said by each class in

the presence of teacher.
2. November 1996—U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive 1994 statute that authorized voluntary student
prayer at assemblies, sports events, and other school activities.
3. Jones v Clear Creek Independent School District case—prayer proponents case.

School-Sponsored Bible Reading

1. 1963—U.S. Supreme Court addressed practice of Bible reading in public schools.

2. Abington School District v Schempp—ten verses of Bible
3. Murray v Curlett—practice of daily Bible reading

Silent Prayer and Meditation

1. 1985—U.S. Supreme Court—silent meditation and prayer—Wallace v Jaffree.

2. Students may meditate to relax before taking an exam or to relieve stress from school day.

Prayer at School Events

1. Santa Fe and Chandler cases

2. Students have the right to pray voluntarily any time and any place as long as it is private, strictly voluntary,
and does not infringe on the rights of others.
3. Athletic contests—Jager case.
4. Invocations at school-sponsored athletic activities violate the Establishment Clause of the First

Voluntary Prayer at Commencement Exercises

1. Develop legally defensible guidelines that are supported by the U.S. Supreme Court decision addressing
student-initiated prayer at athletic contests and other school events.
2. Do not rely on customs and community expectations when encouraging student-initiated prayer at school
3. Student-initiated prayer is probably permissible at school events when not endorsed by school officials.
4. School officials should respond if alerted that school personnel are encouraging students to offer voluntary
prayer at school-sponsored events.
5. Voluntary student-led prayer will likely pass court scrutiny when it is initiated by students without school
6. Prayer at school board meetings violates Establishment Clause, creates excessive entanglement, and cannot
be justified.
Aid to Parochial Schools

1. Lemon v Kurtzman and Early v Dicenso cases.

2. Tuition reimbursement to parents of parochial school children is deemed unconstitutional.
3. Free textbooks for parochial school students do not violate the First Amendment.
4. Mitchell v Helms—aid to student’s case

Use of School Facilities by Religious Student Groups

1. Do not allow some clubs to meet while denying other clubs.

2. Avoid denying based on personal or philosophical disagreement.
3. Do not establish extremely broad definitions.
4. Avoid classifying all other clubs as curriculum related.
5. Consult district legal counsel regarding any questionable activities.

Use of School Facilities by Outside Religious Groups

1. School districts must allow religious groups access to their facilities if other nonreligious groups are
2. School officials are not expected to allow religious groups to use facilities for regular religious services.
3. School districts are not required to accommodate religious groups under a closed forum policy.
4. School officials must remain viewpoint neutral in use of facilities.

Religious Activities and Holiday Programs

1. Bible-teaching policies should be communicated effectively to teachers, students, and parents.

2. Kitzmiller v Dover—teaching intelligent design is unconstitutional because it carries religious
3. Observance of holy days is unconstitutional.
4. Public schools are prohibited from the use of sacred music that occurs in a devotional setting.

Religious Freedoms Involving Teachers

1. Religious garb—disallowed if creates negative impact on students.

2. Religious rights are respected, but should not violate Establishment Clause.
3. Accommodate teachers who observe special religious holidays.