The controversial issue of the separation of church and state is debated frequently in relation to prayer in schools, and charter schools are included in that debate.
Although charter schools are independently run, they are still part of the public school system. According to The New York Times, a growing number are falling into a "religious charter school" c
ategory because various religious schools are struggling financially and converting to charter schools.
While it's legal for religious schools to become charter schools, as long as they make the necessary changes to separate religion from education to abide by federal laws, the process has raised some criticism.
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On the issue of school prayer, charter schools are required to abide by the separation of church and state.
Numerous law cases have etched out the rules for school prayer. According to Exploring Constitutional Conflicts
, various cases have determined that schools cannot require prayers during the school day, although it is okay if they set aside a time for silent reflection. They cannot have an officially approved prayer and they cannot have clergy offer invocations at school-sponsored events.
"In general, the court has demonstrated a willingness to strike down any practices that might be likely to be perceived either as coercive or as a state endorsement of religion," reports Exploring Constitutional Conflicts.
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Charter schools are bound by those same laws. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws creating charter schools, which serve more than 2 million children in the United States, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
In "Charter Schools Program" information put out by the U.S. Department of Education, it clearly states that charter schools are not allowed to incorporate religious practices like prayer into their school days.
"As public schools, charter schools must be non-religious in their programs, admissions policies, governance, employment practices and all other operations, and the charter school's curriculum must be completely secular," says the U.S. Department of Education
. "As with other public schools, charter schools may not provide religious instruction, but they may teach about religion from a secular perspective."
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