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Prayer in Schools: 7 Key Dates in Debate

Image: Prayer in Schools: 7 Key Dates in Debate
US Supreme Court. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images, file)

By    |   Sunday, 16 Nov 2014 04:34 PM

The issue of prayer in public schools has been hotly contested for decades with numerous court cases and Supreme Court rulings attempting to bring clarity to the controversy. Here are seven key dates in the debate.

March 8, 1948 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in McCollum v. Board of Education District 71. Members of the Jewish, Roman Catholic, and some Protestant faiths cooperated with the board of education to offer voluntary classes in religion at public schools. The court ruled that the classes violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

ALERT: Should Prayer Be Allowed in Public Schools? Vote Now

June 25, 1962 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Engel v. Vitale, often cited as the case that took prayer out of schools. The case was brought against a New York school district, at which under New York state law, school officials led a nondenominational daily prayer: "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country." The court found that the prayer violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

June 17, 1963 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Abington School District v. Schempp. The case involved Pennsylvania schools, which required the reading of at least 10 Bible verses without comment at the beginning of each day. Students could opt out of the activity with a written request from their parents. The court found that the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

June 4, 1985 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Wallace v. Jaffree. Alabama law authorized teachers to lead prayer services and activities during the school day. The court ruled that Alabama’s law violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

VOTE NOW: Do You Support Prayer in Public Schools?

June 4, 1990 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Westside Community Schools v. Mergens. A student at Westside High School brought the lawsuit after being denied permission to start an after-school, student-led Christian club. The court ruled that allowing “student religious clubs on the same basis as other student-initiated clubs is equal treatment, not school endorsement of religion.”

June 24, 1992 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Lee v. Weisman, which challenged inviting clergy to deliver invocations and benedictions at school graduation ceremonies. The court ruled that the practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

June 19, 2000 — The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, regarding a challenge to Christian prayer delivered by a student over a public address system before varsity football games. The court ruled that the practice violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

URGENT: Should Students Be Allowed to Pray in Public Schools? Vote Here Now!

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The issue of prayer in public schools has been hotly contested for decades with numerous court cases and Supreme Court rulings attempting to bring clarity to the controversy. Here are seven key dates in the debate.
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2014-34-16
Sunday, 16 Nov 2014 04:34 PM
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