More than 50 years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court passed down its significant ruling on prayer in schools. In the decades that have followed since the 1962 decision (Engel v. Vitale
), people on both sides of the debate have continued to weigh in on the pros and cons of prayer in school.
Throughout the past half-century, a number of prominent people have spoken in favor of the right to have prayer in public schools.
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“Isn’t the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? That they refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives?”
– Former President Ronald Reagan
, questioning whether opponents were tolerant
“Religion continues to be important to many Americans,” she has stated. “The vast majority of Americans identify with religion, a majority of Americans say religion can solve today’s problems, and three in four Americans see the Bible as the actual or inspired Word of God.”
– Rebecca Riffkin
, a Gallup Poll analyst
Modern, prominent Republican lawmakers have been frequent defends of prayer in the classroom.
“Keep faith in the American dream and share it, because the message resonates. We can be optimistic about the future of our one nation because we’re under God.”
– Sarah Palin
, in a speech about school prayer
“Imagine what would happen if the people of faith, the value voters of America — the evangelicals, the pro-life and pro-family Catholics and Protestants from all over this country would let it be known: We are registered, and we will show up.”
– Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
Outspoken talk show host Glenn Beck
has gone on record on numerous occasions about his feelings toward school prayer. He has equated prior decisions to “banishing God from our classrooms.”
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But for all the outspoken supporters of school prayer, there are a large number of opponents as well.
“Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive.”
– Annie Laurie Gaylor
, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
While the issue concerning school prayer was ruled on until 1962, U.S. politicians from years prior weighed in on the issue.
“Leave the matter of religion to the family alter, the church and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.”
– Former President Ulysses S. Grant
“Even silence highlights the non-participant as different,” Simon wrote in the essay. “The child who does not join the silence is singled out. Also, many religions have a format for prayer.”
– Former Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon
, wro in his 1995 essay “A Strong Case Against School Prayer,” addressing the possibility of having a Moment of Silence
“We need kids spending more time on their reading and writing, along with math — not mumbling prayers.”
– Chicago columnist Roger Simon
Of course, one of the most prominent opponents of school prayer is Steven Engel
, who was named as the lead plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that brought an end to open prayer in the public school setting.
“The New York Board of Regents composed a prayer which was optional. However, if your school board chose to use the prayer, your school had to use this one-size-fits-all prayer that doesn’t fit the religious faiths of all people.”
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